Relentless entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin empire.
Ranked #8 in 2009.
#9 (2007), #11 (2005), #34 (2003), #29 (2001).
Knighted in 2000 for services to entrepreneurship.
Set transatlantic records in powerboating and hot air ballooning.
Branson created a whole new type of leadership style. With a philosophy that the greatest asset of any business is its people, at Virgin he created a family-like culture, where people could build their own self-belief by practising and testing their skills, a place where people were valued for their strengths rather than censored for their weaknesses. In his book, The Virgin Way, he outlined his 10 rules for being a great leader, which include listening more and talking less, communicating among all levels of the company, and believing in your business.
Born in London, Branson dropped out of school aged 16. His first business was a magazine named Student, which became a vital component of his next venture, a mail-order record retailer, which he founded in 1970. In 1972, Branson launched record label Virgin Records, with the name chosen in recognition of the fact they were all new at business. Notable artists included The Sex Pistols and early records included Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, which went on to sell an estimated 15 million copies worldwide. By 1979, Branson’s net worth was estimated at £5 million. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Cargo were launched in 1984 and Virgin Holidays in 1985. To keep his airline afloat, Branson sold the Virgin label to EMI, in 1992. He accused BA of a campaign of “dirty tricks” – a case BA settled for over £600,00, plus extensive legal fees. Branson launched Virgin Mobile in 1999 and Australian “low cost” airline Virgin Blue in 2000 and he ventured into space travel with Virgin Galactic in 2004.
Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life (Virgin Books, 2006); Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur (Virgin Books, 2010); The Unauthorized Guide to Doing Business the Richard Branson Way: 10 Secrets of the World’s Greatest Brand Builder (by Des Dearlove, Capstone, 2010); Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (Currency, 2011); Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School (Portfolio, 2012); Screw Business as Usual (with Sean Pratt, Gildan Media, 2013); The Virgin Way: If It’s Not Fun, It’s Not Worth Doing (Portfolio reprint, 2015); Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography (Portfolio, 2017).
“An inspirational leader who changed the way we run and do business.”
Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50