is first business venture was a magazine called Student at the age of 16. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. His Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic and expanded the Virgin Records music label.
He is the 4th richest citizen of the United Kingdom, according to the Forbes 2012 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US$4.6 billion. "Chance favours the prepared mind. The more you practice, the luckier you become," says Richard Branson as he smiles a very enthusiastic grin.
He was born in Blackheath, London, the son and eldest child of barrister Edward James Branson and Eve Huntley Branson. His grandfather, the Right Honourable Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor.
Richard was educated at Scaitcliffe School (now Bishopsgate School) until the age of thirteen. He then attended Stowe School until the age of sixteen. He has dyslexia and had poor academic performance as a student, but later discovered his ability to connect with others. He struggled in school and dropped out at age 16—a decision that ultimately lead to the creation of Virgin Records. His entrepreneurial projects started in the music industry and expanded into other sectors making Richard a billionaire. His Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies, including the recent Virgin Galactic, a space-tourism company. He is also known for his adventurous spirit and sporting achievements. On one of his last days at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
He says, "Entrepreneurial business favours the open mind. It favours people whose optimism drives them to prepare for many possible futures, pretty much purely for the joy of doing so." Richard's parents had a significant impact on his life. He had very talented parents who had an abundance of love for their children and were supportive of his endeavors from an early age. For example, when he was 15 he decided to breed budgies and persuaded his father to build a huge aviary. His father built it. They always encouraged him to go ahead and do what he wanted. His parents always treated him and his two sisters as equals. His parents always encouraged them to have their own opinions and rarely gave them advice unless they asked for it.
Richard started his record business from the crypt of a church where he ran The Student magazine. He advertised popular records in The Student and it was an overnight success. Trading under the name "Virgin", he sold records for considerably less than the "High Street" outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith. Richard once said, "There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration." The name "Virgin" was suggested by one of Richard's early employees because they were all new at business. At the time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit so-called resale price maintenance. In effect, Richard began the series of changes that led to large-scale discounting of recorded music.
Richard has a daughter named Holly and a son named Sam. He stated in an interview with Piers Morgan that he and wife Joan had a daughter named Clare Sarah who died when she was just four days old in 1979. The couple wed—at their daughter Holly's suggestion when she was eight years old—in 1989 at Necker Island, a 74-acre island that he owns in the British Virgin Islands.
In 1998, Richard released his autobiography, titled Losing My Virginity, an international best-seller. Richard was deeply saddened by the disappearance of fellow adventurer Steve Fossett in September 2007; the following month he wrote an article for Time magazine, titled "My Friend, Steve Fossett".
Richard has stated in a number of interviews that he derives much influence from non-fiction books. He most commonly names Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, explaining that Mandela was "one of the most inspiring men I have ever met and had the honour to call my friend." Owing to his interest in humanitarian and ecological issues, Richard also lists Al Gore's best-selling book, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock amongst his favourites. According to Richard's book, Screw It, Let's do It. Lessons in Life, he is also a huge fan of works by Jung Chang.