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The man behind the brand
 

The man behind the brand

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    The man behind the brand The man behind the brand Document Transcript

    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082The man behind the brandBy Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson | October 15, 2012 Picture: Sir Richard Branson.Brand Branson: since launching Virgin Atlantic in 1984, Sir Richard has used it as abeachhead to expand into new marketsSir Richard Branson enters the club room of New York’s SoHo Grand Hotel atlunchtime, declaring that he has just finished breakfast.The potted palms, leopard-print cushions and pictures of Peter O’Toole and SeanConnery suit the playboy image the island-owning, hang-gliding, kitesurfing,speedboat-racing (and apparently late-rising) balloonist enjoys, even at the age of62. For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 1 of 6
    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082Sir Richard has had an enjoyable few weeks. At the weekend it was reported thatVirgin Money is planning a new bid for the branches of Royal Bank of Scotland it hadsold to Santander only for the deal to collapse. This came on the back of winning achallenge to the British government’s decision to strip his Virgin Group of thecontract to run trains between London and Glasgow. The admission of“unacceptable flaws” in the process that had awarded the tender to FirstGroup castSir Richard in his favourite role of underdog. The tender process must now startagain, and Sir Richard, ever the opportunist, seizes his chance to argue that Virginshould win this time. “It would be perceived as incredibly unfair if . . . the people whogamed the system by putting in this completely outlandish bid ended up achievingwhat they wanted to achieve,” he says.Sir Richard has been playing the challenger for a long time. The entrepreneur whodropped out of school aged 16 to launch Student magazine and sell records by mailorder likens his latest scrap to Virgin Atlantic’s campaign against British Airways’“dirty tricks” in the early 1990s. His battles have earnt the self-described “tie-loathingadventurer” a reputation as a publicity-hungry showman.As he lists his latest ventures, he does not linger on any for long. He is in the USbetween visits to Winnipeg, where he relaunched a radio station, and Costa Rica,where the government banned shark finning after lobbying by the Ocean Elders, aconservation group he formed with Queen Noor of Jordan and the CNN founder TedTurner, among others.Virgin has established almost 400 companies in four decades. The 100 live onesrange from Virgin Active gyms in South Africa to Virgin Mobile Chile, but its founderspends 80 per cent of his time on non-profit ventures. The list of these is long,including the Elders (a humanitarian group including Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan),The B Team (cofounded with Jochen Zeitz, Puma’s chairman, to use capitalism forsocial good) and the Global Commission on Drug Policy (which reassesses the waron drugs).“We’re using our entrepreneurial skills, our profile and our contacts to get thingsdone,” Sir Richard says, using the plural as he talks about himself. His companiesare “the Virgin engine” needed to fund such activities, which in turn motivate 60,000staff and boost the brand that unites its disparate activities.High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article withothers using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs andCopyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additionalrights. For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 2 of 6
    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082The CV● Born: in 1950.● Education: Left Stowe School at the age of 16.● Career: Starts Student, a national magazine, in a church crypt in London.● 1970 Having advertised records in the magazine, he founds Virgin Records as amail order service, later opening a shop on Oxford Street and starting a labelfeaturing Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel, the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones.● 1984 Launches Virgin Atlantic as a discount rival to British Airways.● 1992 Sells Virgin Records to EMI for almost £600m, to pay for losses incurred inlaunching the airline.● 1993 Wins his legal battle against BA’s “dirty tricks” campaign.● 1997 Virgin Rail wins its first contract, for Britain’s west coast mainline route.● 1999 Launches Virgin Mobile.● 2000 Singapore Airlines buys a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic.● 2006 Sells Virgin Mobile to cable company NTL:Telewest for £1bn to help createVirgin Media.● 2011 Acquires British bank Northern Rock, after a failed attempt in 2007.● Family: two children Holly and Sam; married to second wife Joan.● Interests: kitesurfing, hang-gliding, hot air ballooning, speed boat racingHe spends the time allotted for business “firefighting” and launching new ventures,he says. The current focus is communications and entertainment. Calling oncontacts ranging from Sir Julian Horn-Smith, the former Vodafone executive, to anOmani investment group, he is raising almost $100m to expand Virgin Mobile in LatinAmerica, the Middle East and eastern Europe.The mobile virtual network operator has become “the brand that helps make otherthings possible” where Virgin is not well known, he says: “We just started flights to For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 3 of 6
    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082Vancouver. It’s usually the other way round. We normally use the airline to get thebrand out there.”Music is also back in Sir Richard’s sights. He sold Virgin Records, the label behindMike Oldfield and the Sex Pistols, 20 years ago to EMI, but when Universal Musicbid for EMI he pitched to get it back. He was unsuccessful but still hopes to work withUniversal to “reinvigorate” a label that has been “left to languish”.The music festivals that have sprung from Virgin Radio’s brand in the UK and UShave also encouraged him to look at concert promotion. His first move will reportedlybe a series of 50th anniversary concerts for the Rolling Stones. “Rumour has it we’velanded quite a good catch,” Sir Richard smiles.Virgin will be entering a market dominated by LiveNation and AEG, but “that’s whatVirgin is synonymous with,” Sir Richard says. If it can launch with a big act, “it willindicate that the brand is working”.Critics accuse Sir Richard of spending too much time chasing new ventures and toolittle on ensuring that the ones he already has prosper. Project, a much-hyped iPadmagazine launched by his 30-year-old daughter Holly, has attracted little buzz.The Virgin brand’s value is unclear. It does not feature on rankings of the top 100global brands from Interbrand or Millward Brown Optimor, yet Sir Richard says it hasclear commercial power. When radio stations from France to Thailand adopt theVirgin name, “almost if they do nothing they get this enormous boost”, he says.The brand has a youthful image, and its founder admits that having a frontmanapproaching retirement age could become a problem. “I may be pushing my son outmore as I get a bit older, and my daughter,” he says. “Companies benefit from faces[and] I think Virgin would definitely benefit if Holly or Sam were willing to be more ofa face of it.”Holly works full-time at Virgin. “She’s very eloquent. Whether children will get in theway or not – she just got married – we’ll have to see,” Sir Richard says.Sam, 27, has completed a film arguing that the war on drugs has failed. “It’s good forthem to make their own mark first of all,” Sir Richard says, but he clearly hopes bothchildren will play larger roles in Virgin.Bloomberg and Forbes estimate that Sir Richard is worth more than $4bn, but he isguarded about Virgin’s finances. For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 4 of 6
    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082Revenues from Virgin-branded businesses are about £13bn a year, but becausemany are joint ventures, Virgin receives a smaller cut. About £50m a year, forexample, come from brand licences including Virgin Media and Virgin Active.Sir Richard has a record of selling stakes to fund new projects and putting in limitedamounts of capital into joint ventures. Wilbur Ross, the US financier, put up aboutfive times the £50m Virgin Money injected to buy Northern Rock, the British bank. “Ifwe’re raising money for a new venture for space travel, I’ll drop in on the MiddleEast,” he says. Many companies there and elsewhere want to use the Virgin brandand are generally happy to fund projects, he adds.Similarly, on a trip to Washington, the day after his New York visit, “we’ve got spacefor lunch, then we’ll raise $400,000 by way of doing a talk”. Space means VirginGalactic, which is planning to offer suborbital space flights for $200,000 or more froma New Mexico spaceport. “I’d be very disappointed if we’re not up and away by nextyear,” he says.At the same time, Virgin Oceanic is testing its first submarine, with which he hopes toexplore the Atlantic’s deepest trenches, seven miles down. This will be his nextadventure – “if it passes its pressure test” – he says. “It’s possible next year wemight do both – go from the lowest part of the oceans into space.” For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 5 of 6
    • Personal Branding Ref: 0082For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: info@imagegroup.com.au www.imagegroup.com.au ©2012 Page 6 of 6