Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson
(born 18 July 1950)
is an English business magnate
, investor, and author.
In the 1970s he founded the Virgin Group
, which today controls more than 400 companies in various fields.
In February 2021, Forbes
listed Branson's estimated net worth at US$6.5 billion.
His third great-grandfather, John Edward Branson, left England for India
in 1793; John Edward's father, Harry Wilkins Branson, later joined him in Madras
. From 1793, four generations of his family was at Cuddalore
. On the show Finding Your Roots
, Branson was shown to have 3.9% South Asian (Indian) DNA, likely through intermarriage.
Later, he claimed that one of his great-grandmothers was an Indian named Ariya.
Branson has dyslexia
, and had poor academic performance; on his last day at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson
, told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
Branson's parents were supportive of his endeavours from an early age.
His mother was an entrepreneur; one of her most successful ventures was building and selling wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins.
In London, he started off squatting
from 1967 to 1968.
Early business career
After failed attempts to grow and sell both Christmas trees
, Branson launched a magazine named Student
in 1966. The first issue of Student
appeared in January 1968, and a year later, Branson's net worth was estimated at £50,000. Though not initially as successful as he hoped, the magazine later became a vital component of the mail-order record business Branson started from the same church he used for Student
. Branson used the magazine to advertise popular albums, driving his record sales.
He interviewed several prominent personalities of the late 1960s for the magazine including Mick Jagger
and R. D. Laing
His business sold records for considerably less than the "High Street" outlets, especially the chain WH Smith
. Branson once said, "There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration."
At the time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit retail price maintenance
Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street
. In 1971, he was questioned in connection with the selling of records that had been declared export stock. The matter was never brought before a court because Branson agreed to repay any unpaid purchase tax
of 33% and a £70,000 fine. His parents re-mortgaged the family home to help pay the settlement.
1972–1980: Founding of Virgin Records
In 1972, using money earned from his record store, Branson launched the record label Virgin Records
with Nik Powell
. The name "Virgin" was suggested by one of Branson's early employees because they were all new at business.
Branson bought a country estate north of Oxford
in which he installed a residential recording studio, The Manor Studio
He leased studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield
, whose debut album Tubular Bells
(1973) was the first release for Virgin Records and became a chart-topping best-seller.
Branson's net worth was estimated at £5 million by 1979, and a year later, Virgin Records went international.
1981–1987: Package holiday industries and Virgin Atlantic Airways success
Branson's first successful entry into the airline industry was during a trip to Puerto Rico. His flight was cancelled, so he decided to charter his own plane the rest of the way and offered a ride to the rest of the stranded passengers for a small fee to cover the cost.
In 1982, Virgin purchased the gay nightclub Heaven
. In 1991, in a consortium with David Frost
, Branson made an unsuccessful bid for three ITV
franchises under the CPV-TV
name. The early 1980s also saw his only attempt as a producer—on the novelty record "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", by Singing Sheep in association with Doug McLean and Grace McDonald. The recording was a series of sheep baa-ing along to a drum-machine-produced track and reached number 42 in the UK charts in 1982.
1988–2000: Telecoms ventures and worldwide impact
In 1992, to keep his airline company afloat, Branson sold the Virgin label to EMI
for £500 million.
Branson said that he wept when the sale was completed because the record business had been the very start of the Virgin empire. He created V2 Records
in 1996 to re-enter the music business, owning 5% himself.
Virgin also acquired European short-haul
airline Euro Belgian Airlines and renamed it Virgin Express
. In 1997, Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskier business exploits by entering into the railway business. Virgin Rail Group
won the CrossCountry
and West Coast
A series of disputes in the early 1990s caused tension between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways
, which viewed Virgin as an emerging competitor. Virgin subsequently accused British Airways of poaching its passengers, hacking
its computers, and leaking stories to the press that portrayed Virgin negatively. After the so-called campaign of "dirty tricks"
, British Airways settled the case, giving £500,000 to Branson, a further £110,000 to his airline, and had to pay legal fees of up to £3 million. Branson distributed his compensation (the so-called "BA bonus") among his staff.
2001–2007: Entry into space travel and Virgin Media
On 25 September 2004, Branson announced the signing of a deal under which a new space tourism
company, Virgin Galactic
, will license the technology behind SpaceshipOne
—funded by Microsoft
co-founder Paul Allen
and designed by aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan
—to take paying passengers into suborbital space
. Virgin Galactic plans to make flights available to the public with tickets priced at US$200,000 using the Scaled Composites White Knight Two
The spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo
, is manufactured by The Spaceship Company
, which was founded by Branson and Rutan and is now solely owned by Virgin Galactic. In 2013, Branson said that he planned to take his two children, 31-year-old Holly and 28-year-old Sam, on a trip to outer space when they ride the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane on its first public flight, then planned for 2014.
As part of his promotion of the firm, Branson has added a variation of the Virgin Galactic livery to his personal business jet, the Dassault Falcon 900EX
"Galactic Girl" (G-GALX).
He was ninth in The Sunday Times Rich List 2006
of the wealthiest people or families in the UK, worth slightly more than £3 billion. Branson wrote in his autobiography of the decision to start an airline.
My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them ... from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it.
Branson's next venture with the Virgin group was Virgin Fuels
, which was set up to respond to global warming
and exploit the recent spike in fuel costs by offering a revolutionary, cheaper fuel for automobiles and, in the near future, aircraft. Branson has stated that he was formerly a global warming sceptic
and was influenced in his decision by a breakfast meeting with Al Gore
On 21 September 2006, Branson pledged to invest the profits of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains in research for environmentally-friendly fuels. The investment is estimated to be worth $3 billion.
On 4 July 2006, Branson sold his Virgin Mobile
company to UK cable TV, broadband, and telephone company NTL:Telewest for £900million. A new company was launched with much fanfare and publicity on 8 February 2007, under the name Virgin Media
. The decision to merge his Virgin Media Company with NTL was to integrate both of the companies' compatible parts of commerce. Branson used to own three-quarters of Virgin Mobile, whereas now he gets paid £8.5million each year for the use of the Virgin brand name. He does not own any part of Virgin Media.
In 2006, Branson formed Virgin Comics
and Virgin Animation, an entertainment company focused on creating new stories and characters for a global audience. The company was founded with author Deepak Chopra
, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur
, and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan
and Gotham Chopra
Branson also launched the Virgin Health Bank
on 1 February 2007, offering parents-to-be the opportunity to store their baby's umbilical cord
blood stem cells
in private and public stem-cell banks. In June 2006, a tip-off from Virgin Atlantic led both UK and US competition authorities to investigate price-fixing attempts between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. In August 2007, British Airways was fined £271 million over the allegations. Virgin Atlantic was given immunity for tipping off the authorities and received no fine—a controversial decision the Office of Fair Trading defended as being in the public interest.
On 9 February 2007, Branson announced the setting up of a new global science and technology prize—The Virgin Earth Challenge
—in the belief that history has shown that prizes of this nature encourage technological advancements for the good of mankind. The Virgin Earth Challenge was to award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design that will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases each year for at least ten years without countervailing harmful effects. This removal must have long-term effects and contribute materially to the stability of the Earth's climate. Branson also announced that he would be joined in the adjudication of the prize by a panel of five judges, all world authorities in their respective fields: Al Gore
, Sir Crispin Tickell
, Tim Flannery
, James E. Hansen
, and James Lovelock
On 13 October 2007, Branson's Virgin Group sought to add Northern Rock
to its empire after submitting an offer that would result in Branson personally owning 30% of the company and changing the company's name from Northern Rock to Virgin Money
The Daily Mail
ran a campaign against his bid; Vince Cable
, financial spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats
, suggested in the House of Commons
that Branson's criminal conviction for tax evasion might be felt by some as a good enough reason not to trust him with public money.
2008–2019: Hotels, healthcare and charitable influence
On 10 January 2008, Virgin Healthcare
announced that it would open a chain of health care clinics that would offer conventional medical care alongside homeopathic and complementary therapies, a development that was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw
, the UK's health minister.
Plans where GPs could be paid for referring National Health Service
(NHS) patients to private Virgin services were abandoned in June 2008. The BMA warned the plan would "damage clinical objectivity", there would be a financial incentive for GPs to push patients toward the Virgin services at the centre.
Plans to take over an NHS Practice in Swindon were abandoned in late September 2008.
In February 2009, Branson's Virgin organisation was reported as bidding to buy the former Honda Formula One
team. Branson later stated an interest in Formula One
, but claimed that, before the Virgin brand became involved with Honda or any other team, Formula One would have to develop a more economically efficient and environmentally responsible image. At the start of the 2009 Formula One season
on 28 March, it was announced that Virgin would be sponsoring the new Brawn GP
with discussions also under way about introducing a less "dirty" fuel in the medium term.
After the end of the season and the subsequent purchase of Brawn GP by Mercedes-Benz
, Branson invested in an 80% buyout of Manor Grand Prix,
with the team being renamed Virgin Racing
In 2010, Virgin Hotels
was launched under the Virgin Group. In February 2018, Branson announced the first Virgin hotel in the UK would open in Edinburgh.
Branson and Tony Fernandes
, owner of Air Asia
and Lotus F1 Racing
, had a bet for the 2010 F1 season
where the losing team's boss should work on the winner's airline during a charity flight dressed as a stewardess. Fernandes escaped as the winner of the bet, as Lotus Racing ended tenth in the championship, while Virgin Racing ended twelfth and last. Branson kept his word after losing the bet, as he served his duty as a stewardess on an Air Asia
flight between Perth
and Kuala Lumpur
on 12 May 2013.
Branson at the Time 100 Gala
in May 2010. Known for his informal dress code,:110
this was a rare occasion he didn't wear an open shirt.
In 2010, Branson became patron of the UK's Gordon Bennett
2010 gas balloon race, which has 16 hydrogen balloons flying across Europe.
In April 2012, Virgin Care commenced a five-year contract for provision of a range of health services which had previously been under the aegis of NHS Surrey, the local primary care trust.
By March 2015, Virgin Care was in charge of over 230 services nationwide.
In July 2012, Branson announced plans to build an orbital space launch system
, designated LauncherOne
customers have already contracted for launches and two companies are developing standardised satellite buses
optimised to the design of LauncherOne, in expectation of business opportunities created by the new smallsat
In August 2012, when re-tendered the InterCity West Coast
franchise was awarded to FirstGroup
after a competitive tender process overseen by the Department for Transport
. Branson had expressed his concerns about the tender process and questioned the validity of the business plan submitted by FirstGroup. When Virgin Rail lost the contract, Branson said he was convinced the civil servants had "got their maths wrong". In October, after an investigation into the bidding process, the deal was scrapped. The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
announced there were "significant technical flaws" in the process and mistakes had been made by transport staff. Virgin Rail continued to operate the West Coast line until 7 December 2019.
In September 2014, Branson announced his investment in drone company 3D Robotics
stating, "It's amazing to see what a little flying object with a GoPro
attached can do. Before they came along the alternative was an expensive helicopter and crew. I'm really excited about the potential 3D Robotics sees in drones. They can do a lot of good in the world, and I hope this affordable technology will give many more people the chance to see our beautiful planet from such a powerful perspective."
In 2014, Branson launched the "Foodpreneur" food and drink-focused start-up competition. Winners were provided with mentorship from Branson, legal support, and brand counseling.
The 2014 winners included Proper Beans, Killer Tomato, Sweetpea Pantry and Sweet Virtues. In 2015, the competition expanded to the Virgin StartUp's Foodpreneur Festival. The 2015 winners were given the opportunity to pitch Target Corporation
buyers. The 2015 winners included Pip & Nut, Double Dutch Drinks, Harry Bromptons, Cauli Rice and Mallow and Marsh.
In November 2015, Branson announced the addition of Moskito Island to the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. This resort, The Branson Estate on Moskito Island, offers 11 bedrooms for 22 guests.
In 2017, Virgin Group invested in Hyperloop One
, developing a strategic partnership between the two. Branson joined the board of directors,
and in December 2017, became its chairman.
The announced winner of the 2017 Virgin StartUp's Foodpreneur prize was The Snaffling Pig Co
., which won a six-week rental space at Intu Lakeside, the retail center with the highest foot traffic in the United Kingdom.
In October 2017, Branson appeared on the Season 9 Premiere of Shark Tank
as a guest investor,
where he invested in Locker Board,
a sustainable line of skateboards
invented by 11-year-old, Carson Kropfl.
Branson told the young business man that he reminded him of himself.
Branson became the richest Shark to have appeared on the show.
In May 2018, it was announced that he would become a partner in a private equity fund that will be co-managed by Metric Capital. The fund will seek out consumer goods firms to invest in.
In September 2018, Branson took part in his fourth Virgin Strive Challenge, where he and a core team travelled more than 2,000 km from Cagliari
to the summit of Mont Blanc
entirely under human and sail power. It was a gruelling month-long challenge where they hiked, biked and kayaked across Europe and had a near-miss on Mont Blanc when a rockfall rained down on them as they crossed the perilous Gouter Couloir
. They raised more than £1m for Holly and Sam Branson's charity Big Change, which supports young people.
2020–present: Coronavirus pandemic difficulties
In March 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic
which saw a dramatic decline in international air travel of around 60% globally,
Branson and Virgin attracted criticism by asking staff to take eight weeks' unpaid leave.
In response to the global pandemic, Branson put his luxury Necker Island
up as collateral for a commercial loan to save Virgin Atlantic.
Branson said: "Over the five decades I have been in business, this is the most challenging time we have ever faced... From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown."
Failed business ventures
Branson has been involved in a number of failed business ventures, such as Virgin Cola
, Virgin Cars
, Virgin Publishing, Virgin Clothing and Virgin Brides.
However, Branson holds an optimistic view of failure. He has written: "I suppose the secret to bouncing back is not only to be unafraid of failures but to use them as motivational and learning tools. ... There's nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you don't make the same ones over and over again."
World record attempts
A 1998 attempt at an around-the-world balloon flight by Branson, Fossett, and Lindstrand ends in the Pacific Ocean on 25 December 1998.
Branson made several world record-breaking attempts after 1985, when in the spirit of the Blue Riband
he attempted the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing. His first attempt in the "Virgin Atlantic Challenger" led to the boat capsizing in British waters and a rescue by RAF helicopter, which received wide media coverage. Some newspapers called for Branson to reimburse the government for the rescue cost. In 1986, in his "Virgin Atlantic Challenger II", with sailing expert Daniel McCarthy, he beat the record by two hours.
A year later his hot air balloon
"Virgin Atlantic Flyer" crossed the Atlantic.
In January 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada
, 6,700 miles (10,800 km), in a balloon of 2,600,000 cubic feet (74,000 m3
). This broke the record, with a speed of 145 miles per hour (233 km/h).
In March 2004, Branson set a record by travelling from Dover
in a Gibbs Aquada
in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds, the fastest crossing of the English Channel
in an amphibious vehicle
. The previous record of six hours was set by two Frenchmen.
The cast of Top Gear
, Jeremy Clarkson
, James May
and Richard Hammond
, attempted to break this record in an amphibious vehicle which they had constructed and, while successfully crossing the channel, did not break Branson's record. After being intercepted by the Coast Guard and asked what their intentions were, Clarkson remarked "...our intentions are to go across the Channel faster than 'Beardy' Branson!". The Coast Guard wished them 'Good luck and Bon Voyage'.
In September 2008, Branson and his children made an unsuccessful attempt at an eastbound record crossing of the Atlantic Ocean under sail in the 99-foot (30 m) sloop Virgin Money
The boat, also known as Speedboat
, is owned by NYYC
member Alex Jackson, who was a co-skipper on this passage, with Branson and Mike Sanderson. After two days, four hours, winds of force
7 to 9 (strong gale), and seas of 40 feet (12 m), a 'monster wave' destroyed the spinnaker
, washed a ten-man life raft overboard and severely ripped the mainsail. The sloop eventually continued to St. George's, Bermuda
Television, film and print
Branson also appears in a cameo early in XTC
's "Generals and Majors" video. He was also the star of a reality television show on Fox
called The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best
(2004), in which sixteen contestants were tested for their entrepreneurship and sense of adventure and only lasted one season.
He has a cameo appearance
in several films: Around the World in 80 Days
(2004), where he played a hot-air balloon operator, and Superman Returns
(2006), where he was credited as a 'Shuttle Engineer' and appeared alongside his son, Sam, with a Virgin Galactic
-style commercial suborbital shuttle at the centre of his storyline. He also has a cameo in the James Bond
film Casino Royale
(2006). Here, he is seen as a passenger going through Miami Airport
security check-in and being frisked – several Virgin Atlantic planes appear soon after. British Airways edited out Branson's cameo in their in-flight screening of the movie.
He makes a number of brief and disjointed appearances in the documentary Derek and Clive Get the Horn
(1979), which follows the exploits of Peter Cook
and Dudley Moore
recording their final comedy album. Branson and his mother were also featured in the documentary film Lemonade Stories
. On the TV series Rove Live
in early 2006, Rove McManus
and Sir Richard pushed each other into a swimming pool fully clothed live on TV during a "Live at your house" episode.
Branson is a Star Trek
fan and named his new spaceship VSS Enterprise
in honour of the Star Trek
spaceships, and in 2006, reportedly offered actor William Shatner
a ride on the inaugural space launch of Virgin Galactic. In an interview in Time
magazine, published on 10 August 2009, Shatner claimed that Branson approached him asking how much he would pay for a ride on the spaceship. In response, Shatner asked "how much would you pay me
to do it?"
In August 2007, Branson announced on The Colbert Report
that he had named a new aircraft Air Colbert. He later doused political satirist and talk show host Stephen Colbert
with water from his mug. Branson subsequently took a retaliatory splash from Colbert. The interview quickly ended, with both laughing
as shown on the episode aired on Comedy Central
on 22 August 2007. The interview was promoted on The Report
as the Colbert-Branson Interview Trainwreck
. Branson then made a cameo appearance in The Soup
, playing an intern working under Joel McHale
who had been warned against getting into water fights with Stephen Colbert, and being subsequently fired.
In 1998, Branson released his autobiography, titled Losing My Virginity
, an international best-seller.
Branson was deeply saddened by the disappearance of fellow adventurer Steve Fossett
in September 2007; the following month he wrote an article for Time magazine
, titled "My Friend, Steve Fossett".
In the late 1990s, Branson and musician Peter Gabriel
discussed with Nelson Mandela
their idea of a small group of leaders working to solve difficult global conflicts.
On 18 July 2007, in Johannesburg
, South Africa, Mandela announced the formation of a new group, The Elders
. Kofi Annan
served as Chair of The Elders and Gro Harlem Brundtland
as Deputy Chair. The Elders is funded by a group of donors, including Branson and Gabriel.
Through the Carbon War Room, founded in 2009, the entrepreneur sought solutions for global warming and the energy crisis. "We all have a part to play, but I believe entrepreneurs will have a really significant role to play in bringing investment and commercial skills to help develop the new technologies needed to grow a post-carbon economy", he said in his interview with Vision
. Through Carbon War Room initiative he has focused efforts on finding sustainable alternatives for three industry sectors: shipping, energy efficiency and aviation and renewable jet fuels.
He also launched Virgin Startup, an official delivery partner for the UK's Start Up Loans programme. Through this new organisation, he was to provide loans to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 30 UK-wide. A pilot of the scheme, which ran over 11 months, injected £600,000 into 100 businesses.
Branson's other work in South Africa includes the Branson School of Entrepreneurship
, set up in 2005 as a partnership between Virgin Unite
, the non-profit foundation of Virgin, and entrepreneur Taddy Blecher
, the founder of CIDA City Campus
, a university in Johannesburg
. The school aims to improve economic growth in South Africa by supporting start-ups and micro-enterprises with skills, mentors, services, networks and finance arrangements.
Fundraising activity to support the school is achieved by The Sunday Times Fast Track 100
, sponsored by Virgin Group
, at its yearly event, where places to join Richard Branson on trips to South Africa to provide coaching and mentoring to students are auctioned to attendees. In 2009, Jason Luckhurst and Boyd Kershaw of Practicus, Martin Ainscough of the Ainscough Group and Matthew Riley of Daisy Communications helped raise £150,000 through the auction.
In March 2008, Branson hosted an environmental gathering at his private island, Necker Island
, in the Caribbean with several prominent entrepreneurs, celebrities, and world leaders. They discussed global warming-related problems facing the world, hoping that the meeting would be a precursor to future discussions regarding similar problems. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales
, and Larry Page
of Google were in attendance.
On 8 May 2009, Branson took over Mia Farrow
's hunger strike
for three days in protest of the Sudanese government expulsion of aid groups from the Darfur
In 2010, he and the Nduna Foundation (founded by Amy Robbins
), and Humanity United (an organization backed by Pam Omidyar, the wife of eBay
founder Pierre Omidyar
) founded Enterprise Zimbabwe.
Branson is a signatory of Global Zero
campaign, a non-profit international initiative for the elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide.
Since its launch in Paris in December 2008,
Global Zero has grown to 300 leaders, including current and former heads of state, national security officials and military commanders, and 400,000 citizens worldwide; developed a practical step-by-step plan to eliminate nuclear weapons; launched an international student campaign with 75 campus chapters in eight countries; and produced a documentary film, Countdown to Zero
, in partnership with Lawrence Bender
and Participant Media
In December 2013, Branson urged companies to boycott Uganda
because of its "anti-homosexuality bill". Branson stated that it would be "against my conscience to support this country...governments must realize that people should be able to love whoever they want."
In 2014, Branson joined forces with African Wildlife Foundation
and partner WildAid for the "Say No" Campaign, an initiative to bring public awareness to the issues of wildlife poaching and trafficking.
Branson is an opponent of the death penalty, stating: "the death penalty is always cruel, barbaric and inhumane. It has no place in the world."
The US is one of the few countries that practises the death penalty, and on 30 September 2015, Branson released a letter in support of American inmate Richard Glossip
on the day he was due to be executed, buying an ad in The Oklahoman
newspaper which had advocated the execution.
Branson stated the evidence against Glossip was flawed and that "every person is deserving of a fair trial", adding: "Your state is about to execute a man whose guilt has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
In October 2018, Branson spoke out for Jamal Khashoggi
, a Saudi journalist allegedly killed by Saudi authorities in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
, Turkey by suspending his advisory role from Saudi Arabia
's biggest Red Sea tourism project. He issued a statement saying, "The disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government
On 1 December 2020 Virgin Orbit
launched The Patti Grace Smith
Fellowship, designed to offer paid work experience and mentorship in the aerospace industry for 'extraordinary Black students.'
Climate change pledge
In 2006, Branson made a high-profile pledge to invest $3 billion toward addressing global warming
over the course of the following decade.
However, author and activist Naomi Klein
has criticised Branson for contributing "well under $300 million" as of 2014, far below the originally stated goal.
Additionally, Klein says Virgin airlines' greenhouse gas emissions
increased considerably in the years following his pledge.
Honours and awards
- In 1992, Branson received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
- In 1993, Branson was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University.
- In the New Years Honours list dated 30 December 1999, Elizabeth II signified her intention to confer the honour of Knight Bachelor on him for his "services to entrepreneurship".
- He was knighted by Charles, Prince of Wales on 30 March 2000 at an investiture in Buckingham Palace.
- Also in 2000, Branson received the Tony Jannus Award for his accomplishments in commercial air transportation.
- In 2000, Branson was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
- Branson appears at No. 85 on the 2002 list of 100 Greatest Britons on the BBC and voted for by the public. Branson was also ranked in 2007's Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in The World. On 7 December 2007, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon presented Branson with the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award for his support for environmental and humanitarian causes.
- On 24 January 2011, Branson was awarded the German Media Prize (organised by "Media Control Charts"), previously handed to former US president Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.
- On 14 November 2011, Branson was awarded the ISTA Prize by the International Space Transport Association in The Hague for his pioneering achievements in the development of suborbital transport systems with "Virgin Galactic".
- On 11 February 2012, Branson was honoured with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' President's Merit Award for his contributions to the music industry.
- On 2 June 2013, Branson received an honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from Kaunas Technology University in Kaunas, Lithuania.
- On 15 May 2014, Branson received the 2014 Business for Peace Award, awarded annually by the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo, Norway.
- On 21 September 2014, Branson was recognized by The Sunday Times as the most admired business person over the last five decades.
- On 9 October 2014, Branson was named as the No. 1 LGBT ally by the OUTstanding organisation.
- On 29 October 2015, Branson was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 1 in the list of 100 Most Influential British Entrepreneurs.
- In October 2015, Branson received the International Crisis Group Chairman's Award at the United Nations Development Programme's in Pursuit of Peace Awards Dinner.
In 1971, Branson was convicted and briefly jailed for tax evasion, having fraudulently obtained export documents for records to be sold on the domestic market to avoid paying Purchase Tax
Customs officials caught onto the scheme and executed a sting operation
, marking records bought for the international market with invisible ink
and subsequently buying them on the domestic market. Branson was advised of the sting by an anonymous tip-off and attempted to dispose of the evidence, but this was unsuccessful.
Branson's business empire is owned by a complicated series of offshore trusts
and companies. The Sunday Times
stated that his wealth is calculated at £3 billion; if he were to retire to his Caribbean island and liquidate all of this, he would pay relatively little in tax.
Branson has been criticised for his business strategy, and has been accused of being a carpetbagger
Branson responded that he is living on Necker for health rather than tax reasons.
Promotion of SeaWorld
Branson has been criticised by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organisation for profiting from selling trips to SeaWorld
and similar themed parks that hold dolphins, whales and other sea life in captivity for entertainment purposes.
In November 2017, singer Antonia Jenae, a backing singer for Joss Stone
, claimed Branson sexually assaulted her at Necker Island by "putting his head between her cleavage and making boat engine noises", a practice, when performed consensually, whcih is known as motorboating
A spokesperson for Branson confirmed to The Sun
newspaper that members of the band had been invited for a party on the island in 2010, but that he and friends and family in attendance had "no recollection" of the events and that "there would never have been any intention to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Richard apologises if anyone felt that way."
Branson married Kristen Tomassi in 1972 and divorced her in 1979. He has a daughter Holly (b. 1981) and a son Sam (b. 1985) with his second wife, Joan Templeman, whom he met in 1976. They were married in 1989 on Necker Island.
He stated in an interview with Piers Morgan
that he and Joan also had a daughter named Clare Sarah, who died when she was four days old in 1979.
Branson is also an experienced kitesurfer
, holding some world records in the sport.
In August 2016 Branson was injured while riding his bicycle in the British Virgin Islands and suffered torn ligaments and a cracked cheek
as a result. He was taken to hospital in Miami for X-rays and scans.
In 2017 Branson's Necker Island home was left uninhabitable after Hurricane Irma
It was the second time the Necker Island home had been severely damaged after the building caught fire when it was struck by lightning
caused by Hurricane Irene
Branson's mother Eve
died, from COVID-19
complications, in January 2021, at the age of 96. A celebration of her life was posted online by her son.
Branson has stated in a number of interviews that he has been much influenced by non-fiction books. He most commonly mentions Nelson Mandela
's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom
, explaining that Mandela was "one of the most inspiring men I have ever met and had the honour to call my friend." Owing to his interest in humanitarian and ecological issues, Branson also lists Al Gore
's best-selling book, An Inconvenient Truth
, and The Revenge of Gaia
by James Lovelock
amongst his favourites. According to Branson's book, Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life
, he is also a fan of Jung Chang
's Wild Swans
and Antony Beevor
In fiction, Branson has long admired the character Peter Pan
and in 2006, he founded Virgin Comics LLC
, stating that Virgin Comics will give "a whole generation of young, creative thinkers a voice".
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- Branson, Richard (2006). Screw It, Let's Do It. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-1149-7.
- Branson, Richard (2007). Let's Not Screw It, Let's Just Do it: New Lessons for the Future. Random House Australia. ISBN 978-1-7416-6688-5.
- Branson, Richard (2008). Business Stripped Bare. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-1503-7.
- Branson, Richard (2008). Arctic Diary: Surviving on Thin Ice. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-1536-5.
- Branson, Richard (2010). Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen and Blasting into Space. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1-905264-91-9.
- Branson, Richard (2010). Globalisation Laid Bare: Lessons in International Business. Gibson Square Books. ISBN 978-1-90614-272-8.
- Branson, Richard (2011). Screw Business as Usual. Portfolio/Penguin. ISBN 978-1-59184-434-1.
- Branson, Richard (2013). Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won't Teach You at Business School. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-75351-992-9.
- Branson, Richard (2014). The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1-90526-490-2.
- Branson, Richard (2017). Finding My Virginity. Ebury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-75355-108-0.
Also published as: The Virgin Way: If It's Not Fun, It's Not Worth Doing
and The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership
Another example was the Net Book Agreement
, which limited the ability of book outlets, including discount book clubs, to offer deep discounts.
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