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How did Richard Branson make his fortune?

Daniella Genovese

Richard Branson's path to becoming a multi-billion business magnate began about 50 years ago after he left school at 16 years old to start his first business.

He launched Student magazine in 1968 to provide an alternative to the "stale" publications and other school magazines that existed at the time, Branson has said.

"Student gave young people a voice and challenged perceptions of youth culture -- covering everything from pop culture and music to the Vietnam and Biafra wars," according to Virgin's website. "While some of the issues we spoke out about have now been addressed, many are still relevant today."


He was able to interview celebrities like Dudley Moore and Vanessa Redgrave and sold almost $8,000 worth of advertising for the very first issue, according to the book, "Richard Branson: Virgin Megabrand Mogul."

Shortly after, Branson started a mail-order record business, which helped to fund the magazine, according to Medium.

Branson's team members have said that the staff was comprised of "complete virgins." The comment drew inspiration and by the early 1970s he opened his first "Virgin Records" shop, according to the Independent.

Despite a rocky start, by 1972, Branson had 14 record stores whose profits were used to found the music label Virgin Records, according to Investopedia. By 1973, Branson earned his first million dollars after his label signed Mike Oldfield and sold more than five million copies of his record, "Tubular Bells," according to the business information website. From there Branson was able to garner more record deals iwith artists such as the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols and Culture Club, according to Medium.

In 1981, Branson formed Virgin Books, British book publisher and Virgin Video. At the time, Branson oversaw more than 50 different companies with combined sales of more than $17 million, Investopedia reported. Three years later, British airline Virgin Atlantic was born.

By 1992, he sold Virgin Records for $1 billion, a move that reportedly devastated the entrepreneur.


The magnate also suffered numerous business failures after the sale of his record label including Virgin Cosmetics, Virgin Brides and most notably Virgin Cola, which only had 0.5 percent of the U.S. market share and forced the company to end production 2012, Medium reported.

Despite those failures, Branson persisted and he now has droves of businesses within travel and leisure, telecoms and media, music and entertainment, financial services and health and wellness sectors.

By 2004, he dove headfirst into space travel with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline.

"Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Mubadala Investment Group, Virgin Galactic will transform access to space for the benefit of life on Earth," the company wrote.

And most recently, Branson launched Virgin Voyages, his first cruise line.

Under what's now known as the Virgin Group, Branson has over 70,000 employees working for his various companies in 35 countries, according to Virgin.

Branson, who spends most of his time at Necker Island, his British Virgin Islands retreat, is worth about $4.4 billion, according to estimates by Forbes.


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