Sir Richard Branson‘s life is better than yours. That’s just a fact. (Topless models, duh.)
But we had no idea just how much better it was until we watched Bloomberg TV’s 30-minute Game Changers show on Tuesday night.
Nor did we realise he was quite such a business badass, adopting the big risk, big reward attitude.
The man created an empire — and his net worth of $4 billion — from nothing, starting at the age of 13.
He’s hung with the Rolling Stones, ballooned (unsuccessfully) across both oceans, and plans to take a submarine to the bottom of the ocean.
Not bad for a kid who was so severely dyslectic he could barely read by the age of eight.
'We used to play dare, sitting on either side of the white line, and it was the last one to move when the car came down the street. Richard always won,' childhood friend Nik Powell said.
In 1970, Branson started a discount mail order record business in hopes of raising money for his national student magazine called Student.
'Somebody suggested Slipped Disc records, the old vinyl disc which kept on slipping, and somebody else laughed, you know, why not Virgin, we're all virgins? Hysterical laughter all around. And I suddenly thought, I am a virgin at business, and I might be a virgin at other things as well, and you know, why not Virgin?'
'He thought that part of life was to avoid paying tax,' a friend said.
Branson was fined $150,000 and started a recording studio and a new record label to help raise cash to pay the fine.
He doubled down again, scaring co-founder Powell who he bought out.
Branson's bet paid off. He owned an island in the British Virgin Islands by 1984 and was living like the rock stars his company managed, a group that included the Sex Pistols, Human League, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones.
'When the door to the aeroplane opened at Newark, it was kind of like a champagne bottle coming out the door. To this day, I think it was still a record for the number of champagne bottles drunk on a flight,' one of his associates said of the first flight.
'Let me tell you, it was Bacchanalian orgy. I mean, it was wild. There was drinking. There were topless models on the plane. It was having a party and Richard led from the front,' former travel editor of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph Graham Boynton said.
'My fellow balloonists, the more experienced balloonists, jumped out and I was left on my own. The balloon spiraled up to 10, 15,000 feet,' Branson said.
Lindstrand: 'I'm in the water. Richard's in the balloon and he doesn't know how it works. That was the scariest moment of my life.'
They were both rescued, although Lindstrand treaded water for two hours.
A few years later, in another attempt to save Virgin Atlantic, Branson tried to fly over the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.
They lost two fuel tanks, and needed the wind to push them at 180 mph to survive. It did not look good, until...
'I'm not a religious person but it was if somebody up there had just taken that balloon and was pushing it through the Jet stream... We missed what we were aiming for by three and a half thousand miles and landed in the Arctic in a snowstorm, but we couldn't have been happier.'
'I think we're within about 18 months from going up into space and starting a whole new era of commercial spaceship travel.'
'I don't think Richard's any different actually to the other very, very wealthy businessmen who've got armies of accountants and lawyers telling them where to put their money, where to hide their money. Is he the people's entrepreneur? Only up to a point.'
'Most of my time will be spent setting up not-for-profit enterprises... but at the same time, we still will have wonderful adventures.'
'I've never been interested in making money... I've just been interested in creating things that I've been proud of. And have a lot of fun creating things.'
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