Born on July 18, 1950, in Surrey, England, Richard Branson struggled in school and dropped out at age 16—a decision that ultimately led to the creation of Virgin Records. His entrepreneurial projects started in the music industry and expanded into other sectors, including the space-tourism venture Virgin Galactic, making him a billionaire.
The first artist on the Virgin Records label, Mike Oldfield, recorded his single “Tubular Bells” in 1973 with the help of Branson’s team. The song was an instant smash, staying on the UK charts for 247 weeks. Using the momentum of Oldfield’s success, Branson then signed other aspiring musical groups to the label, including the Sex Pistols. Artists such as the Culture Club, the Rolling Stones, and Genesis would follow, helping to make Virgin Music one of the top six record companies in the world.
Branson expanded his entrepreneurial to include the Voyager Group travel company in 1980, the Virgin Atlantic airline in 1984 and a series of Virgin Megastores. However, Branson’s success was not always predictable, and by 1992, Virgin was suddenly struggling to stay financially afloat; the company was sold later that year to Thorn EMI for $1 billion.
In 1993, he founded the station Virgin Radio, and in 1996 he started a second record company, V2, which signed artists such as Powder Finger and Tom Jones.
The Virgin Group eventually reached 35 countries around the world, with nearly 70,000 employees handling affairs in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe, South Africa and beyond. He has expanded his businesses to include a train company, a luxury game preserve, a mobile phone company and a space-tourism company, Virgin Galactic.1