There are very few true conglomerations left that meet as broad a deﬁnition as most people would utilize when deﬁning such a word. Many conglomerations center around one particular industry, perhaps attempting to control the method of production, supplies, distribution, and retail. Virgin Group Limited is one of the best-known conglomerations in the entire world. This British conglomeration is among the most varied and compelling companies on earth, and provides a dizzying array of products and services among its business units. From somewhat humble beginnings as a mail-order business, Branson and his partners gradually expanded the reach and scope of the Virgin Group’s business. Today, Virgin Group is a player in a wide variety of industries from as a record label, to a series of nightclubs, railway, food and drink, to mobile phone service (as an MVNO provider), to health care, to aeronautics and commercial air transportation, to space travel, and everything else in-between. Within a business like Virgin Group, planning is quite possibly the single most important thing that each individual business unit could do. Though each business unit unites under the Virgin Group banner, the reality is that each unit is a separate entity, with different owners and different objectives. An interesting approach to the philosophy of both starting a business unit and managing existing ones is what has propelled Virgin Group’s overall success in the industries that they compete in. There are many different aspects to planning, and they are handled in a very unorthodox manner within the Virgin Group business units.
A Brief History of Virgin Group
The Virgin Group was founded in 1970 by Richard Branson in London, United Kingdom. Originally, Virgin was founded as an audio-record mail order business, however this quickly expanded and in 1972, a chain of record stores known as Virgin Records emerged. Virgin Records expanded to actually becoming a full-on record label when Branson purchased a country estate with a partner, and leased out a recording studio there. (Grant 310-311) This would be the genesis of Branson’s, and subsequently, Virgin Group’s strategy of diversiﬁcation in a vast array of industries, as well as opening up all-new ones. The ﬁrst major expansion of the Virgin Group’s scope came in the way of Virgin Atlantic Airways, the group’s ﬁrst foray into aeronautics and space travel. It was formed in 1984 when Branson negotiated a deal with the owners of British Atlantic Airways to take control of that
Company Analysis: Virgin Group
company. (Grant 311) Despite some ﬁnancial difﬁculty in this particular industry, Branson continues to remain heavily invested in air travel, operating airline companies across the globe. Virgin Group’s ﬁrst entrant into the mobile phone service market came in 1999 when Virgin Mobile UK formed, by becoming the world’s ﬁrst mobile virtual network operator – a concept where the company does not own or maintain its own network and instead utilizes a deal with an existing mobile phone service provider to use their network. Virgin Mobile continues to operate in many countries around the world utilizing this strategy, with varying degrees of success. In 1986, the Virgin Group was listed on the stock exchange to raise capital for more business ventures and expansion. The group raised £250 million in capital during that year. Though the group was overall a successful venture, Branson disliked the responsibilities and pressures required of him under life as chairman of a publicly-traded company. The compliance with rules that govern public, limited company and reporting to shareholders was expensive and timeconsuming. Additionally, the presentations Branson was required to make to shareholders who he believed did not understand the business and the subsequent drop in share price encouraged Branson to buy back the shares at the original offer price in 1987 after the stock...
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