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: Times BusinessTotal Pages
Losing My Virginity
In this autobiography, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson says one of his prime business criteria is "fun." Fun made Branson a billionaire, and few business memoirs are one-billionth as fun as Branson's, nor as niftily written. Not only does it relate his side of near-death corporate experiences, it tells how the chairman literally cheated death by gun, shipwreck, and balloon crash.
Branson's empire - now encompassing interests in an airline, pop music, soda pop, e-commerce, and financial services - began when the dyslexic 16-year-old dropped out of school in 1968 to found the British magazine Student . His headmaster said, "I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire." Briefly imprisoned for dodging customs selling records, Branson got his first million by releasing Tubular Bells , a maverick recording all the stuffy executives rejected. (1998's Tubular Bells III puts the series' sales over 20 million.)
Despite wild tales of Branson's wife - swapping and Keith Richards fleeing naked from Branson's studio at gunpoint with another man's woman, the most shocking parts of the memoir concern British Airways' James Bond-like "dirty tricks" campaign against Virgin Atlantic, resulting in the biggest award for damages in English history.
Though it's filled with famous names, witty quotes, and pulse - pounding accounts of lunatic balloon adventures, it is as a business thriller that the book really scores. His instinctive bet-the-ranch tactics could cost him all, or earn another billion. Either way, Branson will likely remain the most entertaining entrepreneur in Europe.