Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur known for his philanthropic projects and his taste for adventure. He is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group Ltd., a conglomerate of separately run companies which include radio stations, airlines, and mobile phones. The Virgin Group now owns around 200 companies in over 30 countries. Virgin also plans to launch commercial space flights over the next few years in a venture called Virgin Galactic.
Branson was born in 1950 in Surrey, England, and was educated at Stowe School, where he established a national magazine, Student, at the age of 16. He is married with two children and lives in London and Oxfordshire.
Richard Branson: I decided I didn’t want to waste the position we found ourselves in. And with wealth comes enormous responsibility.
And capitalism has enormous faults. I’m going to say it’s the only system that seems to work, but it also throws out this enormous wealth.
Tennis players, enormously wealthy. Thousands of tennis players very poor. And you know basketball players, footballers the same.
Rife throughout society is this extreme, extreme wealth that’s created by capitalism. So if you’re one of those lucky people who are in that position where you get that extreme wealth, you’ve just got to make sure that wealth goes back to society in some form or another. Whether it’s creating more jobs, or whether it’s tackling the problems of the world; that money must not languish in a bank account and be unproductive.
You can make a big difference. And for a relatively small amount of money, you can make a big difference to a lot of people’s lives. So over the years I think we have continued in that spirit, but we never really had the resources to really make a difference.
And I never really had the power to be able to pick up the phone to [Bill] Clinton or [Nelson Mandela, or whoever in the world, and get straight through and get things done. So now I’m in that position, and it would be very sad to waste that position and just to carry on trying to accumulate wealth and more and more wealth.
And you know it’s important we have the Virgin machine to generate the wealth; but then it’s very important for the staff who work for Virgin to know that wealth is going to be spent in a constructive way, and that’s what we plan to do.
Recorded on: July 5, 2007