Richard Branson was born on July 18, 1950 in Blackheath, London. His father, Edward James Branson, was a barrister and his mother, Eve Huntley Branson was employed as an airline stewardess at the time of his birth, and was at one time a ballet dancer before Richard’s birth. His Paternal Grandfather was the Right Honorable Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, a judge of the High Court of Justice from 1921 to 1939 and made a member of the Privy Council in 1941.
Richard had dyslexia and found school work extremely difficult while growing up, nearly failing out of the all-boys Scaitcliffe School. He attended Scaitcliffe until he was transferred to the Stowe Boarding School in Buckinghamshire, England at the age of 13. After 3 years of the boarding school, Branson dropped out and moved back to London, where he started his first business venture.
In 1966, at only 16 years old, Branson started a youth culture magazine, called “The Student” which was produced by students for students. In its very first publication it sold over $8,000 in advertisements, which allowed Branson to distribute over 50,000 copies free of charge, by covering the cost with the advertising revenue.
In the late 1960’s branson was running his magazine, “The Student” out of a church basement, procuring interviews with popular personalities of the time, such as Mick Jagger, the magazine became highly successful. At the time, Branson was living the hippie life in a commune and aware of the drug and music scene. One of the things he was frustrated with at the time was how hard it was to get the latest records from your favorite artist. When Branson saw something that frustrated him, his first instinct was to do something about it, so in 1969 he set up a mail-order record catalogue to compliment the already successful magazine.
He named his new mail-order record business “Virgin” and sold his records at a much more reasonable price than the mainstay record outlets. The name “Virgin” was suggested by one of the writers for “The Student”, as they were all “virgins” in the business world, having never ran a business before.
Branson has said that he had never actually intended to start a business, but actually got into business by mistake. Not to make money but more out of a personal frustration. He is quoted as saying, “There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration.”
In 1971, using s profits from his magazine and mail order business, Brandon opened a record store on Oxford Street in London, England. By making sure his records were less than any other retailer, he was able to see good growth in his record business. Using the profits from that business venture, Branson opened his own recording studio in Oxfordshire, England in 1972.
Upon launching his record label, Virgin Records with Nik Powell in 1972, Branson began looking for talent and leasing out studio time to new artists. Within the first year, he had signed an artist named Mike Oldfield whose first album, titled “Tubular Bells” became an instant hit and a chart-topping best seller for over four years. This success helped Virgin Records attract some of the top names in music at the time including such well known acts as The Rolling Stones, Culture Club, Genesis (featuring Phil Collins), and the controversial band. the Sex Pistols.
In 1980, Branson again used his profits to venture into the travel business, starting a new company called the Voyager Group and in 1984 starting the Virgin Atlantic Airline as well as opening a series of Virgin Megastores.
The competition was fierce in the airline business and in 1992, Branson found his Atlantic Airlines struggling to keep afloat. He ended up selling Virgin Records to EMI for about £500 Million, which he later said in an interview that he had wept after the sale, as the record business had been the very start of the Virgin Empire.
in 1993, Branson founded the station “Virgin Radio” as well as entering into the railway business with Virgin Trains and in 1996, he re-entered the music business with a new record company called “V2”. During that same year, Virgin acquired Euro Belgian Airlines (a European short-haul airline) and renamed it to Virgin Express.
On September 25, 2004 Branson announced that he was going to start a new space company called ‘Virgin Galactic’ which would offer space tourism. Funded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen and designed by Burt Rutan, the Spaceship One would take paying passengers into suborbital Space. Virgin Galactic planned on selling the tickets to the public with prices starting at $200,000 a ticket.
In 2005, Virgin Galactic partnered with Scaled Composites to form The Spaceship Company. The Spaceship Company has been trying to reach Branson’s goal of commercially available space travel since 2005, but has had numerous setbacks and has yet to see this goal.
However, The SpaceShip Company did make a considerable leap forward with the successful test launch of the SpaceShipTwo, which broke the sound barrier in April 2013. By the time the SpaceShipTwo broke the sound barrier, over 500 people had already bought their tickets for the Virgin Galactic Voyage into space.
On the fourth test flight of the SpaceShiptwo, disaster struck! On October 21, 2014 The SpaceShiptwo was launched with the newest plastic-based fuel which replaced the original rubber based fuel previously used. The Spaceship broke apart in midair, killing Michael Alsbury (Test Pilot) and seriously injuring the co-pilot Peter Siebold.
On November 2014, Christopher Hart (Chairman U.S. National Transportation Safety Board) that investigations had determined that the SpaceShipTwo’s tail system was the actual cause of the accident. It was supposed to have been released for deployment as the craft was traveling about 1 and a half times the speed of sound and it began pivoting while only traveling at the speed of sound (Mach 1). However the accident, as of the time of this writing, is still under investigation.
In early 2015, Virgin Galactic established a 150,000 sq. ft. research and development center for LauncherOne at the the Long Beach Airport. Reporting in March of 2014 that they will begin test flights of the LauncherOne by the end of 2016.
Branson’s company, Virgin group, now holds over 300 companies worldwide, operating out of more than 30 countries which include England, U.S., Canada, Asia and Australia. Branson is now considered the seventh richest citizen of the United Kingdom, according to Forbes Magazine, with an estimated net worth of almost $4.9 billion.