Richard Charles Branson, born July 1950, is an English business magnate, adventurer, investor, author, and commercial astronaut. He is also the founder of Virgin Group which was established in the 1970s. Today, the group controls more than 400 companies in various fields.
On July 11, the business mogul became the first billionaire to reach space, reaching a peak altitude of 53.5 miles (86.1 km) as part of a test flight in the vehicle that his company has been developing for 17 years.
In 2004, he founded spaceflight corporation Virgin Galactic, based at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, which was designed for space tourism.
Branson had always wanted to become an entrepreneur at a young age. His first business venture, at the age of 16, was a magazine called Student. A year after the first issue of the magazine, Branson’s net worth was estimated at £50,000. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. He opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records later known as Virgin Megastores in 1972.
The Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, when he started Virgin Atlantic airline and expanded the Virgin Records music label. Also, he founded the Virgin Rail Group in 1997 to bid for passenger rail franchises during the privatisation of British Rail. The Virgin Trains operated the InterCity West Coast franchise from 1997 to 2019, the InterCity CrossCountry franchise from 1997 to 2007, and the InterCity East Coast franchise from 2015 to 2018.
Although he has been involved in a number of failed business ventures, such as Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars, Virgin Publishing, Virgin Clothing and Virgin Brides, he holds an optimistic view of failure. He has written: “I suppose the secret to bouncing back is not only to be unafraid of failures but to use them as motivational and learning tools. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you don’t make the same ones over and over again.”
Branson was knighted by Charles, Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace for ‘services to entrepreneurship’ and he received the Tony Jannus Award for his accomplishments in commercial air transportation, both in 2000.
For his work in retail, music, transport, his taste for adventure and for his humanitarian work, he has become a prominent global figure.
Furthermore, he was placed in the 2007’s Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list. In July 2021, Forbes listed Branson’s estimated net worth at US$5.7 billion.
Following his successful flight on July 11, Billionaires Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin are also in the race to offer space tourism options to rich clients. Virgin Galactic’s space trip has come nine days before Amazon.com Inc. founder, Jeff Bezos, plans to fly to space on a rocket made by Blue Origin, his space venture.
Virgin Galactic’s commercial flights to space for wealthy passengers are billed to commence in 2022, with seats on the spacecraft likely to sell for more than $250,000 per passenger. So far, the company has a backlog of 600 confirmed passengers interested in an adventure to space.