Richard Branson’s Net Worth And How He Built It

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Richard Branson, the name behind the Virgin brand, is among the world’s most famous business tycoons. The English businessman is the founder of Virgin Group and now has a net worth of $4.1 billion. According to Forbes, his net worth was roughly $5 billion in 2017.

Virgin brands started with Virgin Records in 1972. Virgin group expanded over the years with radio stations, wireless communications, financial services, space tourism, health clubs and hotels, airlines and nightclubs. Virgin group have over 60 companies in 35 countries, which is great progress.

From an entrepreneur teen to billionaire, Richard Branson ventured his way to become a fine business magnate. He is a source of inspiration for many people. Here is an overview of his early life how he built his net worth with his Virgin Empire.

Early Life

Branson was born on July 18th, 1950 in London. His father was a barrister and his mother was an air hostess. He was the eldest sibling and had two younger sisters. Branson was a dyslexic child who suffered during his academic years. He had great entrepreneurship skills and a business mind from a very young age. 11-year old Richard used to sell budgies at school with his best friend, Nick Powell.

In the 1960s, he started working as an entrepreneur at a young age of 16. With only £100, he started his magazine called ‘Student.’ He interviewed celebrities for his magazines and sold copies worth around $8000 with the first issue.

He decided to drop out of school and began promoting and working more on his magazine. His parents were supportive of his business ideas from the beginning, which was very encouraging for him. His decision to leave school and invest time and effort in his business became fruitful. A year later he had a net worth of £50,000.

Virgin Records

He started advertising for popular records in his magazine under the name Virgin. He set up Virgin Mail Order which was operated from his magazine’s office. Virgin Mail Order imported and sold discounted records through mail order.

His first record store opened in Oxford, London. When he earned enough from the record store, he ventured with Nick Powel in 1972 to launch Virgin Records, a record label company. He called his brand name Virgin because he and his employees were new in this business.

Branson set up a recording studio in Oxfordshire. He bought a residential estate at the country site and named it The Manor Studio. John Cale, Tangerine Dream, Sandy Denny, Gong, and Faust recorded in The Manor Studio.

Branson earned millions of dollars in 1973 when Mike Oldfield’s debut album ‘Tubular Bells’ was sold. The album was Virgin records first ever release, which sold over 5 million copies and was a great success.

Branson was a risk taker by nature and turned out to be a great one. He was willing to release records with controversial brands and artists. Virgin Records signed with Sex Pistols in 1977, when other record label companies refrained from doing so. Virgin signed other artists, like Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, Peter Gabrielle, Japan, UB40 and Paula Abdul. In 1979, Richard Branson and his company had a net worth of £5 million. Virgin records became one of the top six record label companies with its franchise in France, Japan and Germany.

Branson bought Necker Islands in the British Virgin Islands for $180,000.

Virgin Books And Virgin Videos

In 1980s, Branson made addition to his Virgin empire with Virgin Books, Virgin Videos and Virgin games. Virgin Games was a video game industry that was set up by the Virgin Group. Virgin’s publishing house Virgin Books gained early success with Doctor Who New Adventure series. By that time Branson’s Virgin Group had over 50 different companies with a total worth of $17 million.

Richard Branson’s autobiography came out in 1998. In his autobiography, Branson shared his journey to success. He also emphasized how important risk-taking and getting past your mistakes is. His other biographical books: Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur (2008) and The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead (2014) are also critically acclaimed.

richard branson virgin

Virgin Atlantic Airlines And Virgin Trains

The idea for Virgin Airlines originated when Branson’s flight to Puerto Rico was canceled. He chartered for his own plane and offered other passengers a ride at a small cost. Richard Branson and Randolph Fields formed Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984. The airline was found to have quality customer services with unique in-flight ideas, like complimentary ice creams, seatback video screens, and massage services.

In 1990s, Virgin Airways faced issues. Branson believed and proved that British Airways were using dirty tricks to jeopardize the airline. He successfully sued British Airways for hacking into Virgin Airline’s system and defaming Virgin Airlines.

Branson had to sell Virgin Records to save Virgin Atlantic Airline. He sold Virgin Records for $1 billion. Virgin Records was the beginning of the Branson’s Virgin empire and was very close to his heart. He was very emotional when he sold Virgin Record. He said that he felt as if he was selling his child.

Branson once said that business opportunities were like buses; there’s always another one coming. The same year Virgin Rail Group became another part of Branson’s Virgin Group. Virgin Rail Group opened Virgin Trains, a train company operating in the UK.

Virgin empire was continuously expanding with ventures in tourism and holiday package industries as well as hotels, clubs and nightclubs.

Virgin Cola

Virgin Group ventured with Silver Spring to launch Virgin Cola. Branson was hopeful about the prospects of Virgin Cola and expected it to compete with Pepsi and Coca Cola. He thought it would be fun if Virgin Cola was able to topple Coca Cola and Pepsi. He openly waged war against Coca Cola with his new launch which he later regretted.

He ran a tank on Coca Cola cans on the street in New York. Virgin Cola was launched in the UK, USA, and other countries as well. Many people liked the taste, and the drink became popular. But its taste was not very distinctive to compete with its rivals, and so gradually, its sale and production went down. Branson claims that Coca Cola increased their marketing and pressurized distributors not to work with Virgin Cola.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin wireless communications launched Virgin Mobile as a joint venture with Sprint in 2001. Virgin Mobile has eight independent brand licenses worldwide. Virgin mobile is available in many countries including UK, USA, Singapore, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, and Canada.

Space Tourism And Spaceship Company

Richard Branson’s does not believe that the sky is the limit. His business ideas go beyond that. In September 2004, he announced that he was signing a deal to bring a spaceship tourism company called Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic is owned wholly by the Virgin Group. Branson planned on making flights to space for space tourism. Branson owns four space-activity based companies. The Spaceship Company manufactures spaceships. Other two companies are Vox and Virgin Orbit for Cargo.

Pictured: LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren with Richard Branson and the then CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Steve Ridgway, in front of Battersea Power Station.

The Freedom Doctrine

Virgin Fuel And Other Social Activist Projects

Branson is a complete package; he is rich, famous and a well-known tycoon. He is not only an investor and a genius business icon, but also a humanitarian. Branson came up with Virgin Fuels or Virgin Green Funds for a cleaner and greener environment.

This company was established to address problems that were leading to global warming. Virgin Fuels was also formed to invest in other industries to bring renewable resources. Virgin Green Funds had invested in 10 businesses including Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Virgin Trains. Unfortunately, Branson could not keep up with his environment-friendly plans and Virgin Green Funds closed down in 2014.

In 1999, Branson became a sponsor for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (“ICMEC”). IMEC is devoted to child protection. IMEC works to eradicate exploitation, abduction and sexual abuse of children.

Virgin Unite is a nonprofit organization that belongs to the Virgin Group. In 2005 Virgin Unite opened up Branson’s School of Entrepreneurship in South Africa in collaboration with an entrepreneur, Teddy Blecher.

Virgin Unite also included projects that were geared toward fighting disease, like HIV and AIDS, in different communities.

Hotels And Healthcare 

Virgin Care was started by Assura Medical, which was later brought by Richard Branson in January 2010. Virgin Care won a seven-year contract to providing health care services to children, adults and older adults. However, it faced a lawsuit in 2012 and 2017, but matters were settled.

Virgin Hotels was launched in 2010. The first hotel opened in Edinburgh. Last and the fourth one was opened in San Francisco in February 2019. Virgin Groups plans to open their hotels in twenty different locations by 2025.

Branson has stated that there won’t be any hidden charges, and the customers won’t get charged extra for anything just because they bought it off from a hotel.

Branson As An Entrepreneur And Leader

Whether they are god-gifted with strong leadership skills or not, a good entrepreneur must lead their team effectively. Richard Branson is a well-respected employer who masters the art of delegation required to lead his team effectively.

He has an eye for talent. He has given opportunities to many talented individuals in his empire.

Branson was never shy about listening and learning from his employees. He claims that he has been successful from learning and working with the world’s most talented and inspired people.

Branson As A Capitalist

Economic freedom and  Financial freedom are the keys to capitalism. It gives freedom to chose a job location, employers and careers. It frees people to change their path of career without government obstacles. Branson as capitalist has benefitted himself with financial freedom. He chose and decided what to produce and sell on his own will. He chooses his employees, not on their qualifications, but their skills and cultural fit. Unlike the other capitalist, Branson believes in helping others through capitalism instead of only gaining your profit. He believes that capitalism has lost its way and focuses only on profit and not about taking care of the people and the planet.

A Risk Taker

Branson has always been fearless and risk taking. Whether it was a new business idea, which others frowned upon, or an around the globe trip in a hot air balloon which nearly killed him, he has an appetite for risk.

He was on an attempt to set the world record when he piloted the hot air balloon across the Atlantic. But the hot air balloon was short of fuel. He ditched the plan after calculating the risks of survival.

Most of his business ventures were full of risks, but Branson never said no to any idea that came to his capitalist mind. His business philosophy has always been, “Screw it lets do it,” which he usually says.

Failures

All the success Branson has got is worth the risks he has taken throughout his life. But he still has a fair share of failures that were the result of some of his decisions.

In 1996, Branson decided to venture into the fashion industry. Virgin Group had a cosmetic brand, clothing line and a bridal boutique named Virgin Bride. All the brands could not keep up with the market and so were short lived.

After getting a successful airline and train operating company, Branson began thinking about automobiles. In 2000, Virgin Group launched Virgin Cars. Virgin Cars had a good start as a company, but within a few years, it could not keep up and had to shut down. Brandon said that with Virgin Cars they hoped to change the way automobiles were sold.

In 2005, Virgin Group launched a music download site called Virgin Digital. The site worked like iTunes. But Virgin Digital could not compete with Apple and was shut down in two years. Branson learned that he should stick to creating and working on his own ideas instead of following in other companies’ footsteps.

Branson has never given up easily on any of his projects. He is determined to keep struggling until the very last minute. This quality of Branson did get him under the bus on many occasions. But he was able to save Virgin Atlantic Airline when the airline faced hard times and almost seemed to crash. He once wrote that one doesn’t learn by following the rules, but by doing and falling over again.

Summary

Richard Branson is one of the best inspirational and most admired business tycoons in the world. His energetic, flamboyant and daring personality and a genius business mind have made him the owner of an ever-expanding empire. He proved that age is just a number by starting his business at an early age. Branson has set up such a strong empire in forty years which could run on its own.

He still looks for new markets and ideas. He gives much of his time to the non-profit wing of Virgin Group, i.e., Virgin Unite, to work for noble causes he is passionate about.

He immensely loved his work and his company so much that he cried when he had to sell Virgin Records. Branson owes his success to his tiring, hard work, speed, and luck. He never allowed any of his shortcomings, inexperience or failures to get in his way. This was his willingness to work and never give up which made him worth nearly $5 billion.

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