Screw It, Just Do It

Named as 24th most wealthy billionaire in this year’s Sunday Times list, it’s fair to say that Sir Richard Branson, the man behind the all-encompassing Virgin brand, didn’t get to where he is today without tenacity and clear business accruement. It is also interesting to note that his most visible business, Virgin Airways, was created, and continues to operate, from Sussex and is a major employer in the region.

At 63 years old, the entrepreneur, activist, philanthropist and some might say, incorrigible show-off, spreads his Virgin moniker across copious commercial arms. Yet despite the success of Virgin Airways, plus media, fitness, drinks and train line offshoots to oversee – and that’s just four of many – the tycoon remains refreshingly grounded.

Based on Necker Island, a 74-acre luxurious base he owns in the British Virgin Islands, it may seem Branson lives a rather charmed existence. “Yes I’ve got a big house on a paradise island and I’ve got a big boat, but I’d rather make it a sailing boat rather than a motor boat - make it that little bit more tasteful,” he laughs.

“Ultimately, I don’t feel comfortable with ‘flash’. If somebody comes up to my house in a Rolls Royce and offers me a drive around, it doesn’t strike a very relevant chord for me.”

Flashy wheels may not suit the temperament of this mass money operator, but he clearly sits easy with social media, acknowledging its capacity for immediate, truly global communication in a modern world that craves immediacy. With the online world representing an ever-accessible virtual community, Branson has collected over four million Twitter followers, in a period of digital innovation at stark contrast from when the entrepreneur set up his first business at just 16 years of age.

“It’s interesting because I didn’t get that involved with my Twitter site until I realised that I had over a million people following me!” the tycoon laughs...

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Richard Branson