Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few decades or so, you may have heard of Richard Branson. Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, born 18 July 1950, is a multi billionaire (according to Forbes, Branson’s current estimated net worth is listed at $5.1 billion) who amassed the bulk of his fortune running the Virgin Group.
Virgin, which started out as a mail order record company and transformed into a chain of record stores, grew exponentially in the ’80s. It now counts a huge number of sister companies such as Virgin Galactic, Virgin Clothing, Virgin Cola, Virgin Media, Virgin Care, Virgin Mobile and last but not least the airline company Virgin Atlantic.
As family man, philanthropist and adventurer, his business ventures are just one facet of his life accomplishments. For those of you who haven’t heard a lot about him yet – or are intrigued to know more – we have assembled a list of the 10 things that earned him his fortune AND his knighthood.
- Dyslexia: Branson dropped out of high school at age 16 due to dyslexia and poor academic performances. Instead, he started his entrepreneurial career running a magazine. Ironically enough, the magazine was called Student.
- Houseboat: As a school dropout, Branson couldn’t afford to live in a house. However he managed to buy a houseboat for just £2,000. The boat which he named “the Duende,” was located in the the canals of London’s Little Venice. Many years later, Brandon remained extravagant when it came to selecting properties (just read below if you don’t believe me).
- Necker Island: In 1979, Branson bought one of the British Virgin Islands, Necker Island, because the name of the archipelago complimented his brand. Branson had no idea of the existence of the Caribbean islands up until 1978, when he was told that he could potentially own one of them. He purchased Necker Island for just $180,000, a fraction of the price it was originally listed for, because the owner was desperate to sell. He built a resort there a few years later, which is now a popular and exclusive tourist destination attracting celebrities and entrepreneurs.
- The Knight: In March 2000, the Virgin tycoon, 49 at the time, was knighted at Buckingham Palace for “services to entrepreneurship”. The investiture ceremony encouraged him to step up his fashion game for the first time in his life: “I have never worn a morning suit before, but I quite like it – maybe I will get dressed up like this more often,” he said on the day.
- Virgin Records: His record label, Virgin signed controversial bands such as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign and more mainstream artists of the likes of Rolling Stones and Peter Gabriel. The label became the world’s largest independent record label and was eventually sold to EMI for $1 billion.
- Space Travel: The man bought his way in the space race. He has joined the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos with his ambitious commercial space venture, Virgin Galactic. Unlike Musk though, he is not interested in colonizing Mars or going big distances. Instead he is planning to start commercial space travel this year. On the topic, he said: “My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on earth.” He recently announced that the trips will be launched from Italy.
- Basic Income: Branson believes in universal basic income, as a measure to combat inequality. He thinks that Europe and the US should be giving out free cash to their residents irrespective of their employment status. Branson also believes that A.I. will either result in individuals facing risks of future unemployment or potentially more free time to spend on leisurely pursuits – which may make the topic of universal basic income even more important in the years to come.
- Bromance: He is involved in a bromance with Barack Obama. The pair was spotted kitesurfing off Necker Island just weeks after the former U.S. president had left office. When interviewed on the topic, Branson described the former president and his wife as two of the most interesting people he’s ever met.
- Retirement: Even though Branson claims that he will never officially retire, there has been some talk about the line of succession. His daughter, Holly, has been hailed as the future leader of Virgin, the company founded by her father almost five decades ago.
- Death: Branson claims that he has cheated death 76 times. The most recent of which occurred when he was on a series of hot air balloon expeditions across the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and around the world. On his near-death experiences, the 67-year-old said: ‘I can’t say no… I just love a challenge, so if someone says let’s see if we can fly around the world in a hot air balloon, I say, “I’m in for it!.”
If you want to learn even more about Branson, also check out our exclusive interview with him! And in order to hear about other interesting entrepreneurial stories, tech events and funding opportunities, please make sure to also subscribe to our weekly newsletter.