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SIR RICHARD BRANSON – CEO Virgin Empire, Leader innovation & Customer Service

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In 1970 at age 20, Richard Branson founded Virgin as a mail-order record retailer and then as a record shop, recording studio and music label. Since then, Virgin has become one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, expanding into air and rail travel, leisure and hospitality, telecommunications, media, health and wellness, space tourism, and clean energy through more than 400 branded companies in 29 countries with global branded revenues of $21 billion.

A leader in product innovation and customer service, the Virgin family of airlines includes the U. S. domestic Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. In December 1999, Richard was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Millennium New Year’s honors list for “services to entrepreneurship.”

Richard Branson has been involved in a number of world record-breaking attempts since 1985. In 1986 his boat, “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II,” crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest ever recorded time. This was followed a year later by a hot air balloon crossing of the same ocean in the “Virgin Atlantic Flyer.” In 1991, Richard crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada. In June 2004, he set the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle to mark the 20th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic.

Richard’s dream of opening the world’s first commercial space tourism business was realized with the launch of Virgin Galactic. Based on the proven technology of Burt Rutan’s Space Ship One, Virgin Galactic will take passengers to suborbital space.

In 2004, Richard launched Virgin Unite to pull together the resources of the Virgin Group internationally and, most importantly, Virgin’s best asset – its people – to tackle tough challenges facing the world. In 2007, he joined Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders, a group of independent leaders that seeks sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. In 2010, he launched the Carbon War Room to mobilize capital, innovation, expertise and entrepreneurs to advance climate change efforts. He has established Branson Centers of Entrepreneurship in South Africa and Jamaica.

Richard serves on the Global Commission on Drugs Policy, together with former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former U. S. Secretary of State George Shultz and with 15 other global leaders. In June 2011, the Commission published a groundbreaking report on the failures of the war on drugs and called on states to open a sensible debate on drug policy reform and to take steps to decriminalize drug use by individuals who do no harm to others. This year, Richard Branson joined the Honorary Board of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Richard is the author of “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” (Crown Business, 1998) “Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life” (Virgin Books, 2006), “Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur” (Virgin Books, 2008), and his most recent title, “Screw Business as Usual” (Penguin/Portfolio, 2011). In 2012, Richard Branson was named Britain’s most influential person on Twitter.

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