It’s got to be fun to be Richard Branson.
Since founding his record label in the 1970s, he’s launched more than 400 businesses with the Virgin Group, exploring pretty much every industry you could imagine: airlines, hotels, mobile-phone companies, banks, and even space tourism.
With an estimated net worth of $US5 billion, he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world.
From parties with models to daredevil world-record attempts, this British businessman always takes it to the next level.
Richard Branson was born on July 18, 1950 in Blackheath, London. His father was a barrister, but their family was not wealthy, and they struggled to make ends meet. As a young man, he struggled with dyslexia and performed poorly in school. A headmaster once told him he would either end up in prison or a millionaire.
His first business was a magazine he called 'Student.' The first issue came out on January 26, 1968, when Branson was just a teen.
He started selling records by mail order in 1970. The business later grew into a brick-and-mortar store, which grew into a recording studio that eventually became Virgin Records.
Virgin Records was a huge success, with high-profile performers like the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols signing with the label. Branson was a millionaire by the age of 23.
He married Joan Templeman on his private island in 1989. Before the ceremony began, he reportedly made his entrance by helicopter.
Branson's Virgin Group consists of more than 400 companies. In 2000, he was knighted by the Prince of Wales in honour of his services to entrepreneurship.
Branson is known for doing some crazy stunts to launch his companies. In 2007, he jumped off the top of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas to celebrate Virgin America's inaugural flight. In 2012, he danced with cheerleaders to kick off the airline's cross-country service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Philadelphia.
Branson is never one to turn down a good bet. He once dressed in drag for a flight from Perth, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after losing a bet to Air Asia Group CEO Tony Fernandes over whose Formula One race team would do better.
His two kids are major players on the London social scene. His son Sam married Isabella Calthorpe in what was referred to as the 'nearly royal wedding' of 2013. Calthorpe briefly dated Prince William during a split with Kate Middleton, and her half-sister is Prince Harry's ex, Cressida Bonas. The wedding took place on Ulusaba, Branson's private safari reserve in South Africa.
His daughter Holly married shipbroker Freddie Andrewes in a glamorous ceremony on the family's private Caribbean island, Necker Island.
The 74-acre Necker Island is where Branson now makes his primary residence. Though some have criticised him for the move, saying he left the U.K. for tax reasons, he says he just really loves the British Virgin Islands. 'I have my office here and it's easy to attract people to come from all over the world, to plot and plan things,' he told British weekly Hello! magazine in 2013.
When Branson bought Necker Island in the 1970s, he paid only $US180,000 for it. Thought it took him five years and $US10 million to construct the island resort, he estimated that the island is worth at least $US60 million, as of 2006.
The luxury resort on Necker Island can accommodate up to 30 people and six children. The Great House, which was recently renovated after being destroyed by a fire in 2011, has eight guest bedrooms, a 1,500-square foot master suite, and a zip line that carries guests down to the beach. The entire island can be rented for $US60,000 a night.
Branson also owns a luxury catamaran called the 'Necker Belle.' You can rent it for $US110,000 a week when he isn't using it to cruise around the Caribbean. Branson reportedly put the boat up for sale in March, though there's no word on whether it's been scooped up.
Guests at the island can also explore the ocean on the Necker Nymph, a three-person underwater aircraft that can travel up to 100 feet below the surface.
Kitesurfing is one of Branson's favourite ways to blow off some steam. In 2013 he organised the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, which broke the Guinness World Record for the largest number of kitesurfers to complete a one-mile course. He is also the oldest man to kitesurf across the English Channel, a feat he completed in 2012, at the age of 61.
In one of his more controversial moments, Branson appeared kitesurfing with a naked model on his back. His wife reportedly dismissed the behaviour as 'typical Richard.'
He's pretty crazy about setting world records. In 1987, he crossed the Atlantic in the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, becoming the first man to cross that ocean in a hot air balloon. In 1991, he was in the first balloon to cross the Pacific. Branson made several attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon with aviators Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand, though they were ultimately unsuccessful.
He gets a free Range Rover every year as thanks for speaking publicly about surviving an accident in the one of the vehicles.
In 2011, Branson launched Virgin Oceanic with plans to take deep-sea dives to explore previously unseen parts of the ocean.
His next venture is into outer space, with the first commercial flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo taking place this fall. A ticket will set you back $US250,000, but he'll reportedly be accepting Bitcoin. Branson took a ride on the zero-G 'Vomit Comet' to prepare.
Branson owns a collection of luxury resorts as part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. Branson's Ulusaba Private Game Reserve includes 21 rooms spread over two lodges near the border of South Africa's Kruger National Park. The resort offers safaris where it's likely guests will spot the big five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo.
There's also the 27-bedroom Kasbah Tamadot, located at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Guests can stay in luxury suites on the property, or they can try out the Berber tent camp for a more authentic experience.
His lodge in the Swiss alpine town of Verbier provides year-round accommodations for up to 18 people. The location has prime access to the slopes, and there's even a Michelin-starred chef on staff.
Branson also owns the Roof Gardens and Babylon Restaurant, perched above Kensington High Street in London. The three themed gardens are home to a variety of trees, streams, and even a family of flamingos.
Opened in 2013, Mahali Mzuri is the latest addition to the Virgin Limited Edition collection. Twelve luxury tents make up this safari camp in Kenya, which includes an infinity pool and a top-notch spa. The camp is an ideal spot to watch the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, lions, and hyenas move en masse in search of food and water.
He's also looking to expand his Virgin Hotels empire, with the first location opening in Chicago in the fall and more to come in New York City, Nashville, and Silicon Valley.
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