The Virgin Group
The Virgin Group is one of the UK’s largest private companies. The group included, in 2006, 63 businesses as diverse as airlines, health clubs, music stores and trains. The group included Virgin Galactic, which promised to take paying passengers into sub-orbital space. The personal image and personality of the founder, Richard Branson, were highly bound up with those of the company. Branson’s taste for publicity has led him to stunts as diverse as appearing as a cockney street trader in the US comedy Friends, to attempting a non-stop balloon flight around the world. This has certainly contributed to the definition and recognisability of the brand. Research has showed that the Virgin name was associated with words such as ‘fun’, ‘innovative’, ‘daring’ and ‘successful’. In 2006 Branson announced plans to invest $3bn (A2.4bn; £1.7bn) in renewable energy. Virgin, through its partnership with a cable company NTL, also undertook an expansion into media challenging publicly the way NewsCorp operated in the UK and the effects on British democracy. The nature and scale of both these initiatives suggests that Branson’s taste for his brand of business remains undimmed.
Origins and activities
Virgin was founded in 1970 as a mail order record business and developed as a private company in music publishing and retailing. In 1986 the company was floated on the stock exchange with a turnover of £250m (A362.5m). However, Branson became tired of the public listing obligations: he resented making presentations in the City to people whom, he believed, did not understand the business. The pressure to create short-term profit, especially as the share price began to fall, was the final straw: Branson decided to take the business back into private ownership and the
shares were bought back at the original offer price. The name Virgin was chosen to represent the idea of the company being a virgin in every