English business magnate Sir Richard Branson has become of the most influential men in the world since founding the Virgin Group in the 1970s. Is Branson a billionaire?
Richard Branson is a multibillionaire. At his peak, Forbes estimated his wealth at approximately $5b (£3.78b) but, as of April 2020, this had reduced to $3.4b (£2.57b). Branson made his billions through his Virgin brand, encompassing music, air travel, and rail and is expanding into a cruise line and space tourism.
For more on Richard Branson’s wealth and how he made his billions, read on.
Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was born in Surrey, England on July 18, 1950. His father, Edward James Branson, was a barrister, while his mother, Eve, was a flight attendant.
Branson attended Scaitcliffe School, a preparatory school in Surrey, but struggled due to his dyslexia. After barely making it through Scaitcliffe, he transferred to Stowe School, a boarding school, and continued to struggle throughout his teens.
At 16, Branson left school and started a youth magazine, “Student”, run by himself and students. The first 50,000 copies of “Student” were distributed for free, with Branson managing to raise $8,000 of advertising revenue to cover the costs.
By the time he was 20, Branson had moved to London and engulfed himself in the late 1960s music scene. He decided to start a mail-order record company, Virgin, initially to help fund his magazine.
After a couple of years, Branson was able to buy a record shop on Oxford Street. The increased income meant that, in 1972, he could build his first recording studio in Oxfordshire.
In 1973, Mike Oldfield released “Tubular Bells”, under Virgin Records. The song, which is well remembered as the opening theme from “The Exorcist”, was a huge success and remained on the UK chart for 247 weeks.
This success allowed Virgin to start signing ever-larger acts, such as The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, and Genesis until the label became one of the most powerful in the world.
Always keen to expand his business, Branson continued opening more Virgin stores. Virgin Megastores became a familiar sight in British cities, selling movies and other media in addition to music.
In 1984, he founded Virgin Atlantic, an airline, and seemed destined to be one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in the world. However, a downturn in fortunes meant Virgin was struggling in the early 90s and Branson sold the company to Thorn BMI in 1992 for $1 billion.
Despite the major setback, was undeterred and founded Virgin Radio in 1993 and V2, a new record company, in 1996. Branson back to the top, expanding to 35 countries and employing as many as 70,000 people at the Virgin Group’s peak.
In 2016, the Virgin America airline was sold to Alaska Air. Branson was opposed to the takeover but lacked the voting power to prevent it.
Branson was knighted in 1999 and has appeared on Forbes’ rich lists numerous times.
Just as he previously invested in rail and air travel, Branson has continued to look for new opportunities for expansion. One of his major focuses has been joining the race for commercially viable space tourism, founding Virgin Galactic.
Back on Earth, Branson launched Virgin Voyages, a cruise line targeting younger people with features such as a tattoo parlor and running track on its ships. He also founded Virgin Hotels, looking to gradually take ownership of existing hotels and renovate them when possible.
Like many entrepreneurs, Branson’s wealth has fluctuated and suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic. His peak was estimated by Forbes to be $5 billion in March 2017 but it had lowered to $3.4 billion as of April 2020.
He owns Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, which he purchased in 1978 for $180,000. The island serves as his primary residence.