Richard Branson

Born in 1950, Sir Richard Branson grew up in a traditional family in England. By the age of 17 Richard started his first business; a national magazine entitled “Student”.

At 20 years old, he founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer and a short while later, he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. In 1972, The Virgin Records music label was formed and a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire where the first Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded "Tubular Bells", later released in 1973.

The first album of Virgin Records went on to sell more than five million copies.

The first album of Virgin Records went on to sell more than five million copies. At the age of 27, Richard signed The Sex Pistols to the Virgin Records label after the group was turned down by every label in Great Britain.

Over the years, Richard Branson has signed many superstar names including Steve Winwood, Paula Abdul, Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, The Human League, Bryan Ferry, Culture Club, Janet Jackson, and The Rolling Stones. Branson made Virgin Records a major player in the international music business.

In the mid-1980s the Branson company was floated on the Stock Exchange, but the Branson style didn't fit the way City institutions expected public companies to behave. So he bought the company back from the shareholders and to find the money he had to sell Virgin Records to Thorn-EMI. Even so the price, agreed in 1992, was huge, at almost £500million.

Since then Virgin has expanded into air and rail travel, mobile phones, finance, retail, internet, drinks, hotels and leisure, with around 200 companies in over 30 countries.

Virgin Atlantic Airways, started in 1984, is now the second largest British long haul international airline and operates a fleet of Boeing 747 aircrafts to Africa, Asia, Europe, United States, Caribbean and Australia

In 1993, the combined sales of Virgin Group Companies exceeded $1 billion US. In addition to his own business activities, Branson is a trustee of several charities, including The Healthcare Foundation.

In 1999 the married father-of-two was knighted for "services to entrepreneurship."

In 2000 Virgin launched a series of new businesses including Virgin Cars, Virgin Wines, Virgin Student, Virgin Money.com, Virgin Energy and Virgin Travelstore.com.

In September 2004, Sir Richard signed a £14m contract to have five "spaceliners" built in the US, set to take Virgin passengers into space by around 2008

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