Born in 1950, Richard Branson grew in a traditional family and received his education at Stowe School, where he established a national magazine Student at the age of sixteen. He started a Student Advisory Centre at 17, aiming to help young people. At twenty years old, he founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer and a short while later, he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. In 1972, a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire where the first Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded «Turbular Bells», later released in 1973. The first album of Virgin Records went on to sell more than five million copies. At the age of 27, Richard signed the Sex Pistols to the Virgin Records label after the group was turned down by every label in Great Britain. Over the years, he signed many superstar names including Steve Winwood, Paula Abdul, Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Phil Colins, Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, The Humn League, Bryan Ferry, Culture Club, Janet Jackson, and The Rolling Stones. Eventually, Branson managed to turn Virgin Music Group into a giant success. In 1992, the Virgin Music Group — record labels, music publishing and recording studios — was sold to Thorn EMI in a $1 billion US deal.
The interests of Virgin Group have since expanded into international «Megastore» music retailing, books and software publishing, film and video editing facilities, and clubs and hotels throughout 100 companies in 15 countries. Virgin Atlantic Airways, started in 1984, is not the second largest British long haul international airline and operates a fleet of Boeing 747 aircrafts to New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, and Tokyo. The airline was founded on the concept of offering competitive and high quality first class and economy services. The airline holds many major airline awards and recently earned «Airline of the Year Award» for the third consecutive year. In 1993, the combined sales Virgin Group Companies exceeded $1 billion US.
In addition to his own business activities, Branson is a trustee of several charities, including The Healthcare Foundation, a leading healthcare charity responsible for the launch of a health education campaign named Parents Against Tobacco, aiming to limit tobacco advertisements and sponsorships in sports. Since 1985, Richard has actively engaged in his vocations and been involved in a number of record-breaking land and air speed and distance attemps. In 1986, his boat, «Virgin Atlantic Challenger II», rekindled the spirit of the Blue Riband by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the fasted recorded time ever. One year later, the hot air balloon called the «Virgin Atlantic Flyer» was the first hot air balloon ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and was the largest ever flown at 2.3 million cubic feet capacity, reaching speeds in excess of 130 mph. In 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada, the furthest distance of 6,700 miles, again breaking all existing records with speeds of up to 245 mph in a balloon measuring 2.6 million cubic feet.
. Richard lives in London and Oxfordshire and is married with two children. Richard Branson is the 236th richest person according to Forbes’ 2008 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of approximately $4.4 billion USD.