For Sir Richard Branson, getting the most out of life has come from a combination of business and pleasure—though this guy's idea of pleasure tends to be a little warped. Hot air balloon crash landings in the ocean. Boats sinking out from underneath him. Fighting arctic wind and temperature in 'round-the-world attempts. What follows are the highpoints from Branson's life—so far.
1950 — Richard Branson is born in Blackheath, South London. No word on whether he was the first baby to leap from crib to crib on his way to a record.
1967 — Branson set up a charity called Student Advisory Centre, which came on the heels of his first successful business, a magazine called Student.
1970 — Branson, barely 20 years old, founded Virgin, which operated out of the trunk of his car for a time and then was established as a mail-order record business.
1977 — Bucking other record labels' conventional wisdom, Branson signed the Sex Pistols to his Virgin Records music label, which the budding entrepreneur had founded in 1972. Virgin Records is now part of EMI.
1984 — In a move that led to a protracted lawsuit with British Airways, Branson founded Virgin Atlantic Airways. He eventually prevailed against British Airways and received a hefty settlement.
1986 — No longer content solely with the buzz of starting new businesses, Branson unleashed his adventuresome side. In 1985, he made an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Atlantic by boat in world-record time. He had better luck in '86, breaking the record by a couple of hours in the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, successor to a waterlogged Virgin Atlantic Challenger.
1987 — Eschewing the water for the air, Branson became the first human--and, presumably, the first creature of any kind--to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon, the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, the largest balloon ever.
1991 — Not to be outdone--by himself--Branson crossed the Pacific Ocean in another, even larger, hot air balloon, establishing a record for some other adventuresome soul to chase.
1997 — In a move that may seem odd to Americans and their car-centric culture but makes perfect sense to Europeans, Branson founded Virgin Trains.
1998 — Branson made his last attempt to circle the globe in a balloon, coming up short with an unscheduled stop in Hawaii. (Even the guy's letdowns lead to sunny places.)
2004 — Not content to leave behind the trappings of sea and land, Branson founded Virgin Galactic, with plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights for those willing to spend $200,000 or more to leave behind the trappings of gravity.
2007 — The merger of several media companies with different media interests led to the founding of Virgin Media Inc., a provider of television, mobile phone, internet and land-line phone services.
—By Mike Werling
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