Richard Branson was born in 1950, and went to Stowe School. At the age of 16, he borrowed 4 pounds from his mother, and used it to start "Student" magazine. Unlike most other school magazines at the time, he solicited advertising from major corporations, and managed to source material from well known artists and celebrities, such as the cover of the first issue, painted by Peter Blake (known for the cover of Seargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
In 1970, seeing the record buying habits of his subscribers, he opened a mail order record company aimed at the same demographic as his magazine. The name of this company was elusive. At first it was to be called "Slipped Disc", but this was quickly changed to "Virgin". It was so profitable that within a year he had opened his first record store, in Oxford Street, London. Any money made was ploughed back into the business, and soon he had opened a recording studio in a converted manor house in Oxfordshire. Here, Mike Oldfield recording his first Album, "Tubular Bells", which went on to sell 5 million records.
Since then, Virgin records has signed many artists, including Janet Jackson, Phil Collins, Genisis, Peter Gabriel, Culture Club, the Rolling Stones, and perhaps most famously, the Sex Pistols who had been kicked off several other labels, inlcuding EMI. Ironicly, in 1992 Thorn EMI bought Virgin Records, and the sex pistols back catalogue, in a billion dollar deal.
Whilst Virgin Records was growing, the money was funding other companys under the virgin umbrella. Virgin Atlantic Airways was started in 1984, and is now the second largest British long haul airline. Virgin Cola is now bigger than Pepsi in some parts of Europe. The groups interests now lie in mobile phones, internet access, banking, books, retail, film, trains, clubs and hotels.
Outside of his business interests, Richard Brason is a trustee of many charities. He is also well known for his record breaking attempts by boat or hot air balloon. He broke the transatlantic record for a boat in 1986, became the first man to fly a hot air ballon across the Atlantic Ocean in 1987 and the first to fly a balloon across the Pacific Ocean in 1991.