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Richard Branson's First Virgin Flight a "Bacchanalian Orgy"

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, which encompasses companies in a wide range of industries, including airlines, consumer goods, hospitality, music, travel, and space tourism.

Richard Branson seated and wearing a loose suit backdropped by a collage of Virgin Group subdiary entity logos. The text "Richard Branson" is foregrounded.

Mr. Branson was born in London in 1950. He attended Stowe School, a private school in Buckinghamshire, but left at the age of 16. He launched his first venture, a student magazine called Student, in 1966 and became a millionaire by the age of 23.

Virgin Records

In 1970 Mr. Branson began a mail order business focused on vinyl records with the funds intended to raise money for his student magazine, titled Student.

The following year he opened the first Virgin record store in London. According to Mr. Branson’s childhood friend and Virgin co-founder, Nik Powell, the name originated from a self-directed joke:

"Somebody suggested Slipped Disc records, the old vinyl disc which kept on slipping, and somebody else laughed, you know, why not Virgin, we’re all virgins? Hysterical laughter all around. And I suddenly thought, I am a virgin at business, and I might be a virgin at other things as well, and you know, why not Virgin?"

Mr. Branson was fined $150,000 for tax evasion leading him to launch Virgin Records in 1973 as a way to raise the required funds.

Virgin Airlines

In 1984 Mr. Branson launched Virgin Atlantic Airways with a used 747 on lease from Boeing serving as the craft for the maiden flight. According to Graham Boynton, the former travel editor of The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the first flight was effectively a wild party:

"Let me tell you, it was Bacchanalian orgy. I mean, it was wild. There was drinking. There were topless models on the plane. It was having a party and Richard led from the front."

An associate of Mr. Branson also described the flight:

"When the door to the airplane opened at Newark, it was kind of like a champagne bottle coming out the door. To this day, I think it was still a record for the number of champagne bottles drunk on a flight," one of his associates said of the first flight.

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