2134 words 9 pages


The Virgin Group
Aidan McQuade

The Virgin Group is one of the UK’s largest private companies. The group included, in 2006, 63 businesses as diverse as airlines, health clubs, music stores and trains. The group included Virgin Galactic, which promised to take paying passengers into sub-orbital space. The personal image and personality of the founder, Richard Branson, were highly bound up with those of the company. Branson’s taste for publicity has led him to stunts as diverse as appearing as a cockney street trader in the US comedy Friends, to attempting a non-stop balloon flight around the world. This has certainly contributed to the definition and recognisability of the brand. Research has showed that the
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Corporate rationale
In 2006 Virgin still lacked the trappings of a typical multinational. Branson described the Virgin Group as ‘a branded venture capital house’.3 There was no ‘group’ as such; financial results were not consolidated either for external examination or, so Virgin claimed, for internal use. Its website described Virgin as a family rather than a hierarchy. Its financial operations were managed from Geneva. In 2006 Branson explained the basis upon which he considered opportunities: they have to be global in scope, enhance the brand, be worth doing and have an expectation of a reasonable return on investment.4 Each business was ‘ring-fenced’, so that lenders to one company had no rights over the assets of another. The ring-fencing seems also to relate not just to provision of financial protection, but also to a business ethics aspect. In an interview in 2006 Branson cricitised supermarkets for selling cheap CDs. His criticism centred on the supermarkets’ use of loss leading on CDs damaging music retailers rather than fundamentally challenging the way music retailers do business. Branson has made it a central feature of Virgin that it shakes up institutionalised markets by being innovative. Loss leading is not an innovative approach. Virgin has evolved from being almost wholly comprised of private companies to a group where some of the companies are publicly listed.

Virgin and Branson


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