Sir Richard Branson (b. 1950) is the billionaire English entrepreneur and investor best known as founder of the Virgin Group of more than 400 companies which include Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains amongst their numbers.
Richard was born in Blackheath, London and struggled at school before dropping out at 16 to start the youth-culture magazine Student, which was launched in 1966 and made more than $8,000 from advertising in its first edition. In 1969, he started the Virgin mail-order record company to help fund the magazine, further expanding his business venture with a record shop and later a recording studio. In 1980, Richard formed travel company the Voyager Group, and four years later the airline Virgin Atlantic which he knew would be a difficult venture but proceeded with out of a self-confessed drive to fulfil “huge, apparently unachievable challenges.” Continuing this trend, Richard formed Virgin Trains, which since 1997 has operated the InterCity West Coast franchise, providing long distance passenger services that connect five of the UK’s largest cities.
By 2012, Virgin Atlantic was the seventh largest UK airline when measured by its 5.4 million passenger volume. This was achieved against strong competition from British Airways, and necessitated the sale of Virgin Records in the early 1990s to keep the airline afloat. In 2004, ever on the lookout for a new challenge, Richard announced the formation of Virgin Galactic, a new space tourism company. In 2012, he confirmed further plans to construct an orbital space launch system called LauncherOne.
Richard is known for his commitment to humanitarian initiatives, for which he has received a number of high-profile awards. He was knighted in 2000 for “services to entrepreneurship”, and in the same year received the Tony Jannus Award for his commercial air transportation accomplishments.
He was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2000.