Tuesday Jul 18, 1950 to Present
London, EnglandSir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson 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.
After failed attempts to grow and sell both Christmas trees and budgerigars, Branson launched a magazine named Student in 1966 with Nik Powell. The first issue of Student appeared in January 1968, and a year later, Branson's net worth was estimated at £50,000. The office for the venture was situated in the crypt of St. John's Church, off Bayswater Road, in London.
Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London. In 1971, he was questioned in connection with the selling of records 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.
In the New Years Honours list dated 30 December 1999, Elizabeth II signified her intention to confer the honor of Knight Bachelor on him for his "services to entrepreneurship".
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 outer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In February 2009, Branson's Virgin organization 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 team, with discussions also underway about introducing a less "dirty" fuel in the medium term.
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 bet winner, 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.
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 April 2018, Branson announced the acquisition of the Las Vegas-based Hard Rock Casino-Hotel with plans to re-brand the property under his Virgin Hotels business. Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opened on March 25, 2021.
In September 2018, Branson took part in his fourth Virgin Strive Challenge, where he and a core team traveled more than 2,000 km from Cagliari in Sardinia to the summit of Mont Blanc entirely under human and sail power. It was a grueling 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.
In February 2019, Branson helped organize an international benefit concert, Venezuela Aid Live, to bring worldwide attention to the humanitarian crisis and raise funds for humanitarian aid. The concert took place on 22 February in Cúcuta, Colombia, on the Venezuelan border.
On 5 May 2020, it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline would lay off 3,000 staff, reduce the fleet size to 35 by the summer of 2022, retire the Boeing 747-400s, and would not resume operations from Gatwick following the pandemic.
On 11 July 2021, Richard Branson took a flight with Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett and reached the edge of space (86 kilometers or 53 miles) on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft called VSS Unity. This made him the first billionaire founder of a space company to travel to the edge of space.