Sir Richard Branson, presidente do Grupo Virgin, faz uma saudação a bordo na nave WhiteKight2 em Mojave, Califórnia. O avião foi projetado para lançar a 15.000 metros de altura o veículo que transportará os futuros turistas espaciais. O primeiros vôos custarão em média 200.000 dólares.
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is an English business magnate, best known for his Virgin brand of over 360 companies. Branson’s first successful business venture was at age 16, when he published a magazine called Student. He then set up a record mail-order business in 1970. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores and rebranded as zavvi in late 2007. With his flamboyant and competitive style, Branson’s Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s – as he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label. Richard Branson is the 236th richest person according to Forbes‘ 2008 list of billionaires as he has an estimated net worth of approximately $7.9 billion USD.
Branson was born at Stonefield Nursing Home in Blackheath, South London, the son of Edward James Branson and Eve Branson (née Huntley Flindt). His grandfather, the Right Honourable Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a Judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor. Branson was educated at Scaitcliffe School (now Bishopsgate School) until the age of thirteen. He then attended Stowe School until he was fifteen. Branson has dyslexia, resulting in poor academic performance as a student, yet by the age of fifteen he had started two ventures that eventually failed: one growing Christmas trees and another raising budgerigars.
At sixteen, Branson left school and moved to London, where he began his first successful business, Student magazine. When he was seventeen, he opened his first charity, the “Student Advisory Centre.”
Branson started his first record business after he travelled across the English Channel and purchased crates of “cut-out” records from a record discounter. He sold the records out of the boot of his car to retail outlets in London. He continued selling cut-outs through a record mail order business in 1970. Trading under the name “Virgin” he sold records for considerably less than the so-called “High Street” outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith. The name ‘Virgin’ was a selling point because records were sold in a new condition (unlike in other shops where records were being handled when listened to in record booths). At the time many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements which limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit so-called resale price maintenance. In effect Branson began the series of changes that led to large-scale discounting of recorded music. Branson and some colleagues were discussing a new name for his business when one suggested that it should be called ‘Virgin’ since they were all virgins to business.
Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London and, shortly after, launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik powell. Branson had earned enough money from his record store to buy a country estate, in which he installed a recording studio. He leased out studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield.
In 1971, Branson was arrested and charged for selling records in Virgin stores that had been declared export stock. He settled out-of-court with UK Customs and Excise with an agreement to repay the unpaid tax and fines. Branson’s mother Eve re-mortgaged the family home to help pay the settlement.
Virgin Records’ first release was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, which was a best-seller and British LP chart topper. The company signed controversial bands such as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign. It also won praise for exposing the public to obscure avant-garde music such as the krautrock bands Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the music world. In the early 1980s, Virgin purchased the gay nightclub Heaven. In 1991 in a consortium with David Frost, Richard Branson had made the unsuccessful bid for three ITV franchisees under the CPV-TV name.
In 1992, to keep his airline company afloat, Branson sold the Virgin label to EMI, a more conservative company which previously had rescinded a contract with the Sex Pistols, for $1 billion . Branson is said to have wept when the sale was completed since the record business had been the genesis of the Virgin Empire. He later formed V2 Records to re-enter the music business.
The eldest and only boy of three children, his sisters are Lindi and Vanessa. His father Ted, followed in his father’s footsteps assuming the career of a barrister. Branson’s mother, Eve, worked in the theatre, as a glider pilot instructor and as a flight attendant.Branson had poor academic records, contrasted with excellent performance in sports.Branson is married to his second wife, Joan Templeman, with whom he has two children, Holly, a doctor, and Sam Branson. The couple wed, at Holly’s suggestion when she was eight years old, at Necker Island in 1989.He owns Necker Island, a 74 acre island in the British Virgin Islands. He also owns real estate on the Caribbean Island of Antigua and Barbuda.In 1998 Branson released his autobiography entitled Losing My Virginity.Branson was deeply saddened by the disappearance in September 2007 of fellow adventurer Steve Fossett and wrote an article for Time magazine in October 2007 entitled “My Friend, Steve Fossett” that concluded with him talking about praying for his friend
In 1997, Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskier business exploits by entering into the railway business. Virgin Trains won the franchises for the former Intercity West Coast and Cross-Country sectors of British Rail. Launched with the usual Branson fanfare with promises of new high-tech tilting trains and enhanced levels of service, Virgin Trains soon ran into problems with the rolling stock and infrastructure it had inherited from British Rail. The company’s reputation was almost irreversibly damaged in the late 1990s as it struggled to make trains reliably run on time while it awaited the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line, and the arrival of new rolling stock.
Virgin acquired European short-haul airline Euro Belgian Airlines in 1996 and renamed it Virgin Express. In 2006 the airline was merged with SN Brussels Airlines forming Brussels Airlines. It also started a national airline based in Nigeria, called Virgin Nigeria. Another airline, Virgin America, began flying out of the San Francisco International Airport in August 2007. Branson has also developed a Virgin Cola brand and even a Virgin Vodka brand, which has not been a very successful enterprise. As a consequence of these lacklustre performers, the satirical British fortnightly magazine Private Eye has been critical of Branson and his companies (see Private Eye image caption).
After the so-called campaign of “dirty tricks” (see expanded reference in Virgin Atlantic Airways), Branson sued rival airline British Airways for libel in 1992. John King, then-chairman of British Airways, counter-sued, and the case went to trial in 1993. British Airways, faced with likely defeat, settled the case, giving £500,000 to Branson and a further £110,000 to his airline and had to pay legal fees of up to £3 million. Branson divided his compensation (the so-called “BA bonus”) among his staff.
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 Spaceship One—funded by Microsoft co-Founder Paul Allen and designed by legendary American aeronautical engineer and visionary Burt Rutan—to take paying passengers into suborbital space. Virgin Galactic (wholly owned by Virgin Group) plans to make flights available to the public by late 2009 with tickets priced at US$200,000.
Branson’s next venture with the Virgin group is Virgin Fuels, which is set 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 skeptic and was influenced in his decision by a breakfast meeting with Al Gore.
Branson has been tagged as a “transformational leader” in the management lexicon, with his maverick strategies and his stress on the Virgin Group as an organization driven on informality and information, one that is bottom-heavy rather than strangled by top-level management.He was 9th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006, worth just over £3 billion.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/NTL:Telewest for almost £1 billion. As part of the sale, the company pays a minimum of £8.5 million per year to use the Virgin name and Branson became the company’s largest shareholder. The 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 in order to integrate both of the companies’ compatible parts of commerce. Branson used to own three quarters of Virgin Mobile, whereas now he owns 15 percent of the new Virgin Media company.
In 2006, Branson formed Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation an entertainment company focussed 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 of storing their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in private and public stem cell banks after their baby’s birth.In June 2006, a tip-off from Virgin Atlantic led US and UK 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 will award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design which 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, Jim Hansen and James Lovelock. The panel of judges will be assisted in their deliberations by The Climate Group and Special Advisor to The Virgin Earth Prize Judges, Steve Howard.
Richard Branson got involved with football when he sponsored Nuneaton Borough A.F.C. for their January 2006 FA Cup 3rd round game against Middlesbrough F.C.. The game ended 1-1 and the Virgin brand was also on Nuneaton Borough’s shirts for the replay which they eventually lost 2-5.
In August 2007, Branson announced he takes up 20 percent stake in Malaysia’s AirAsia X.On October 13, 2007, Branson’s Virgin Group sought to add Northern Rock to its empire after submitting an offer which would result in Branson personally owning 30% of the company, changing the company’s name from Northern Rock to Virgin Money. The Daily Mail ran a campaign against his bid and Vince Cable 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. 
On January 10, 2008, Branson’s Virgin Healthcare announced that it would open a chain of health care clinics that would offer conventional medical care alongside homeopathic and complementary therapies. The Financial Times reported that Ben Bradshaw, UK’s health minister, welcomed the launch. “I am pleased that Virgin Healthcare is proposing to work with GPs to help develop more integrated services for patients.”
In the late 1990s, Branson and musician and activist Peter Gabriel discussed with Nelson Mandela their idea of a small, dedicated group of leaders, working objectively and without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts.
On July 18, 2007, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela announced the formation of a new group, The Elders, in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday. The founding members of this group are Desmond Tutu, Graça Machel, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson, and Muhammad Yunus.
The Elders will be independently funded by a group of “Founders”, including Branson and Gabriel.Desmond Tutu serves as the chair of The Elders—who will use their collective skills to catalyze peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that are causing or may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world. They will work together over the next several months to carefully consider which specific issues they will approach.
In September 2007, Richard Branson chaired the jury of the first Picnic Green Challenge, a 500.000 Euro award for best new green initiative, set up by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the PICNIC Network of creative professionals.
In March 2008, Richard 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 this meeting will be a precursor to many more future discussions regarding similar problems. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and Larry Page of Google were in attendance.
World record attempts
Richard 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. This was the largest balloon at 2.3 million cubic feet (65,000 m³), and the first hot-air balloon crossing the Atlantic. It reached 130 miles per hour (209 km/h).
In January 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada, 6,700 miles (10,800 km), in a balloon of 2.6 million cubic feet (74,000 m³). This broke the record, with a speed of 245 miles per hour.
Between 1995 and 1998 Branson, Per Lindstrand and Steve Fossett made attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. In late 1998 they made a record-breaking flight from Morocco to Hawaii but were unable to complete a global flight before Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in Breitling Orbiter, March 1999.
In March 2004, Branson set a record by travelling from Dover to Calais 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.
Branson was knighted in 1999 for ‘services to entrepreneurship’ and presented as a millennium icon. In the 1980s, he was briefly given the post of “litter tsar” by Margaret Thatcher—charged with “keeping Britain tidy”. He was again seen as close to the government when the Labour Party came to power in 1997. In 2005 he declared that there were only negligible differences between the two main parties on economic matters. He has frequently been mentioned as a candidate for Mayor of London, and polls have suggested he would be a viable candidate, though he has yet to express interest.
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 £3.065 billion; if he were to retire to his Caribbean island and liquidate all of this he would pay relatively little in tax.
When Virgin Mobile launched its service in Canada on 1 March 2005, the use of “naughty nurses” in its advertising triggered “The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario” to demand an apology from Branson and an immediate stop to the campaign, and called on members to boycott Virgin Mobile. Virgin Mobile spokeswoman Paula Lash said the company never intended to offend anyone, but was not about to pull the advertising.
When Virgin Mobile included “super hot holiday” wrapping paper with the December 2005 issue of youth magazine Vice, as part of the Hot Box promotion, the wrapping paper contained illustrated holiday angels, where the male angel is touching the female’s breast, while the female angel has her hand on the male’s genitals. Famous Players stopped its partnership deals with Virgin Mobile after a complaint.
In 1988, Branson wanted to buy Virgin Music back for the same amount of money, per share, that he had sold it for, valuing the company at £248m. The shareholders agreed, although they were unaware that Branson had already agreed to sell the same shares to Pony Canyon, a Japanese media company, for £377m. The incident was revealed in 2000 when Branson was on the verge of winning the franchise for the National Lottery from Camelot Group.
Sir Richard appears at No. 85 on the 2002 list of “100 Greatest Britons” (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public). Sir Richard also ranks No. 86 on Channel 4‘s 2003 list of “100 Worst Britons“. Sir Richard was also ranked in 2007’s Time Magazine “Top 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.