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Richard Branson: Great entrepreneur or tosser?


PauloBarnesi
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Is Richard Branson a great entrepreneur and worthy of our admiration or is he simply a tosser?  

28 members have voted

  1. 1. Is Richard Branson a great entrepreneur and worthy of our admiration or is he simply a tosser?

    • great entrepreneur
      14
    • A1 tosser
      7
    • Or a bit of both
      7


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Top man imo, he has done a lot for this country and dont forget how he was ripped off when offering to run the lottery for free ith more money going to charity.

Int he donating all virgins profits to enviromental projects for the next ten years??

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Although he's clearly an attention seeking egotist, he's also proven himself very successful, and despite the publicity stunts he doesn't seem like a particularly odious chap. No hatred here, though I did vote for both! :lol:

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Richard Branson runs a railway system where the government pays him a lot of money for a frankly tinpot service, so I find it hard to believe that one. As he runs an airline its hard to imagine that however much money he will put in will offset the damage he has caused with his planes.

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Why Richard Branson is the last man to be trusted with Northern Rock

by TOM BOWER - More by this author »

Last updated at 22:01pm on 5th December 2007

Comments (5)

All smiles: But Richard Branson has a chequered past

After a lifetime building a fortune on hype, misrepresentations and even a criminal conviction for tax evasion, Sir Richard Branson's bid to rank among Britain's leading bankers is being viewed among the more cautious members of the City establishment as a risk too far.

Observers in the City who have followed the roller-coaster career of Britain's favourite tycoon over the past 38 years know that there are incidents which pose serious questions about his credentials to front a bank in which more than £20billion of taxpayers' money will remain at risk.

The truth is that the over-riding priority of Branson's business career has been an obsession with himself. Treat any of his pledges to serve the public interest with prudence.

At heart, even Branson would admit, he is a ruthless and skilled money-maker who takes gambles to enhance his personal fortune. Clearly, Branson believes that Virgin's proposed take-over of Northern Rock will enrich him with handsome profits.

Otherwise the billionaire would never have thrown his hat into the ring.

Crucially, those who bear the scars of past financial entanglements with the Virgin boss warn that any profits he pockets from the collapsed Newcastle-based bank risk being at the expense of taxpayers.

Of course, Branson is a proven genius at capitalising on clever ideas.

However, Northern Rock is a very different case - the biggest financial calamity ever to hit a British government. Desperately anxious to rid itself of the disaster, the Labour Government is understandably thrilled by Branson's offer.

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Concerned customers queue outside their local Northern Rock branch in September 2007 when the Newcastle-based bank first revealed it was in trouble

Since the finger of blame for the crisis is firmly pointed at Chancellor Alistair Darling, for dithering when the first signs of a problem arose, and at the City regulators who acted so ineptly, the chance of escape provided by Branson was understandably grabbed with open hands.

When first mooted last month, Virgin's offer to take over Northern Rock was pronounced by the BBC to be a "done deal".

But ever since, rival bidders have questioned the Government's eagerness to accept what they claim is an inferior offer.

Critics are wondering if Gordon Brown is star-struck by Branson. More worrying are suggestions he and his Treasury team have not thought through the ramifications.

Past disasters such as the renationalisation of Railtrack, the introduction of tax credits, the disruption of Britain's pensions schemes, the bewildering complications injected into our tax regime and the untested merger of the Inland Revenue with Customs & Excise all suggest Labour's ability to deal with complex financial problems is dubious, to say the least.

Brown's own time at the Treasury suggests a propensity to support instant remedies which carry expensive legacies. The question now must be: is the Government in danger of accepting Branson's offer at face value without considering his track record?

The Virgin tycoon's first business venture, in 1969, was Student magazine, sold from a basement off London's Edgware Road, and his next was selling records from a warehouse in Paddington.

Both enterprises were tinged by sharp practices, especially Virgin Records. Based on cheating the Customs & Excise of tax on the sale of records, Branson chortled that the fraud was "a great wheeze".

Eventually he was fined £20,000 and paid £40,000 in taxes, the equivalent today of nearly £1million. That crime could be ignored as a youthful excess if Branson had not perpetuated another unethical ruse in 1988.

On that occasion, being depressed by the poor performance of Virgin Music on the stock market and having sold shares to the public at 140p, he wanted to buy them back for the same price, valuing the company at £248m.

Reluctantly, the shareholders agreed, although they were unaware that Branson had already agreed to sell the same shares to Pony Canyon, a Japanese media company, for £377m - that's £129m more than he told his shareholders the company was worth.

That dishonesty was eventually revealed in 2000 when Branson was on the verge of winning the franchise for the National Lottery from Camelot.

It was his second such attempt, but his bid became mired in a dispute with the Lottery regulator, Lord Burns (a hugely respected former permanent secretary at the Treasury).

Lord Burns advised that Branson's past business record rendered him unsuitable to be trusted to manage the Lottery's billions. So ended what Branson called "the most important thing in my life".

As a brilliant salesman and unique self-publicist, Branson can be forgiven for hyping his products' successes and smudging discomforting truths. Yet he often teeters on the edge of making fraudulent claims.

For example, during his launch of Virgin Cola in 1995, he claimed that his new drink had 10 per cent of the market, while, in truth, it had fallen to just 3.3 pc.

"We're earning £1m profits a week from Virgin Cola," Branson claimed.

However, insiders knew the business was actually losing money and was worth a fraction of his assessment.

Branson might claim his optimism was innocent, but others would say that if public money was at stake - as with Northern Rock - such false assertions would be reckless.

Public investors did indeed risk their money in Branson's ventures involving clothes, cosmetics and a Belgian-based airline, Virgin Express. In all three companies, the original investors lost money.

Today, in another area of his wide-ranging business portfolio, those investors who put money into Virgin Media (now haemorrhaging viewers to archrival BSkyB) and Virgin Mobile USA at the outset are now losing money.

Private investors have also lost by tying themselves to Branson. In 1999, Singapore Airlines bought a 49 pc stake in Virgin Atlantic, based on its value of £1.2 billion.

The airline is now valued at about £750 m and Singapore Airlines wants to sell its stake. Like his partners in Virgin Blue, a low-cost airline in Australia, the Singaporeans have not enjoyed their relationship with Branson.

But, more importantly, the biggest loser to date in Branson's enterprises has been the British taxpayer - especially due to his involvement in the privatisation of British Rail.

In the early Nineties, Branson pledged he could run an efficient rail franchise and make it profitable within five years.

As a result, Virgin Rail won the lucrative West Coast franchise on the basis of a deal in which it received a £77m subsidy from the Government and would then pay back a licence fee to run the line from the anticipated profits.

Branson promised that within two years, his service would provide "hand-held TV sets, low-cost phone reservations and more staff".

Students and groups would be offered "deeply discounted fares".

However, Branson has failed to transform the West Coast line, with millions of passengers suffering delays while taxpayers have been forced to fork out more money in subsidies.

The fact is that behind the cheeky, blokey persona lies Branson's raw pursuit of money, power and influence.

For years, his mistakes, misrepresentations and erratic management have been disguised by his bravura public appearances.

Already, the financial cost to taxpayers has been heavy, but entrusting Northern Rock to Branson with a potential bill of more than £20billion and risking the City of London's hard-won reputation as a global financial centre would, considering his past, be a step too far.

Written by Tom Bowyer

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Top man imo, he has done a lot for this country and dont forget how he was ripped off when offering to run the lottery for free ith more money going to charity.

Wasn't ripped off - his bid wasn't as good - I'm sure the cost of putting together the bid was more than paid back through the free positive pubilicity he received.

Int he donating all virgins profits to enviromental projects for the next ten years??
Nope he isn't. He is investing the profits into environmental related companies out of which he expects to receive a massive profit as he knows the govt are more likely to favour these areas with tax breaks over the years. He is a businessman, he's not a one man charity.

Brilliant entrepreneur, despite the fact that most virgin brands fail, he keeps the ones that are doing well close to his heart, and has protected the brand so that other companies are willing to do the hardword to be able to use the Virgin Banner. Take for example the bid for northern rock, he was willing to put in 200m for a 55% stake, with the other shareholders having to raise another 200m just to keep their hands on their reduced stake, and with the refinancing being handled by the merchant bankers. And as that has fallen apart, the govt have pulled a rabbit out of their hat by proposing 25bn worth of govt backed bonds available to anyone doing the deal, whilst the bear has sweetened his offer, by reducing his take to 45%.

The mortgage book alone is worth 2bn, so he would end up owning 900m worth of assets + plus the value of the branch network, which he can relaunch under the virgin brand. Excellent entrepeneurship. He surrounds himself with very smart people and listens to them.

On the downside, he's a complete tosser who salts his money away in tax havens and pays bugger all taxes - though you could argue that is the fault of the tax regime that allows such practices.

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^ I don't take anything seriously that appears in that disgusting reg
Most of it's quite accurate if you do your own research.

As is the fact that when he launched virgin airlines, he promised the company would plant a tree for every plane launch. Not a lazy promise - it was the centre of the press conference launch where he stood there planting a tree, making the claim. Challenged some 20 years later, whether the company had kept to their promise, branson blushed and admitted they hadn't and it was all a bit of a publicity stunt.

Brilliant at marketing, not very good at honesty.

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I've read the article and it reads like the person writing it has an agenda.... I may be wrong but that's how it reads to me...

But is it not true that rich and successfull people in Britain get slagged off? I have certainly noticed it!

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