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Richard Branson profile

  • Story Highlights
  • Richard Branson set up Student Magazine at the age of 16 to start his empire
  • He founded Virgin in 1970 as a music retailer, then opened a recording studio
  • Branson has broken a number of records traveling in boats and balloons
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(CNN) -- Richard Branson was born in 1950 and educated at Stowe School. It was here that he began to set up Student Magazine when he was just 16. By 17 he'd also set up Student Advisory Centre, which was a charity to help young people.

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In 1970 he founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer, and not long after he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. During 1972 a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire, and the first Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded "Tubular Bells" which was released in 1973.

This album went on to sell over 5 million copies. Since then many household names, including Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Phil Collins, Janet Jackson and The Rolling Stones have helped to make Virgin Music one of the top six record companies in the world.

Branson formed Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, and it is now the second largest British long haul international airline and operates a fleet of Boeing 747 and Airbus A340 aircraft to locations including New York, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Tokyo.

During 1997 Virgin took over Britain's two most run-down rail franchises, CrossCountry and the West Coast Main Line.

In addition to his own business activities, Branson is a trustee of several charities including the Virgin Healthcare Foundation, a leading healthcare charity which was responsible for the launch of a health education campaign relating to AIDS in 1987.

The Foundation has also become involved in a lobbying campaign called Parents Against Tobacco, which aims to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport.

His help in the initial funding of charity projects helped that organization to raise over £100 million ($200 million), through campaigns such as Comic Relief and many other charities.

To keep his adrenaline levels high, Richard has been involved in a number of world record-breaking attempts since 1985.

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In 1986 his boat, "Virgin Atlantic Challenger II" rekindled the spirit of the Blue Riband by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest ever recorded time. This was followed a year later by the epic hot air balloon crossing of the same ocean in "Virgin Atlantic Flyer." This was not only the first hot-air balloon to cross the Atlantic, but was the largest ever flown at 2.3 million cubic feet capacity, reaching speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour (209 km/h).

Still after the ultimate adventure, in January 1991 Richard crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada, the furthest distance of 6,700 miles. Again, he broke all existing records, with speeds of up to 245 miles -per hour in a balloon of 2.6 million cubic feet. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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