“With the casino and the beds, our passengers will have at least two ways to get lucky on one of our flights.”

“Fortunately we’re not a public company – we’re a private group of companies, and I can do what I want.”

Richard Branson (born 1950) turned the mail-order record shop he opened in 1970 into a label he sold 22 years later for nearly $1 billion. Today, his company is involved in a wide range of viable enterprises. You can fly Virgin Atlantic, soar over the countryside on Virgin Balloon Flights, or even one day leave the atmosphere on Virgin Galactic. The brand includes mobile-phone service, bridal gowns, credit cards, and life insurance. Virgin Group encompasses 200 companies in 30 countries. Through it all, the roguish Branson has never stepped back from steering the company. The idea of booking flights into space might make other executives snicker or cringe, but it clearly put a smile on Branson’s face.

Branson is aggressive in pushing his companies into new industries—an approach that has made the Virgin brand bigger than any one of his individual holdings ever could be.