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3.8 out of 5 stars24
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 21 December 2008
Entertaining expose of Richard Bransons business career. The book isnt particularly well written but highlights the hypocrisy of the ubiquitous Richard Branson frequently voted top of the business pops. Branson comes across as a puerile, opportunistic, astonishingly crass and unpleasant man.

His main sources of profit would appear to be when he has nestled himself under the protective wings of the state, his airlines (having a dual monopoly on flights to america with BA from heathrow) and trains (having monopolys on various travel routes). He has milked money from both of those ventures and insufficiently carefull partners (who he seems to serially latch onto and suck dry at a phenomenal rate) to finance an extraordinary number of business ventures that have fallen rather flat while he stashes money away into offshore accounts. The news industry plays a bit part in this pretty sordid story, the amount of free publicity and boosting he has recieved from compliant journalists and media organisations probably runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Worth buying for the picture of a rather battered Branson dangling on a bungee rope after colliding with a hotel wall on one of his numerous publicity stunts. Well worth reading.
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on 3 December 2010
Essential reading, Bower reveals the dark side of a chancer who's conned his way into becoming the Nation's favourite tycoon. I'd gained insights and heard tales over the last thirty odd years but Tom Bower exposes the truths to flesh in the details of the skeleton's in Branson's closet.

This book is as gripping as his works on Fayed, Tiny Rowland and Conrad Black, and Bower succeeds in reminding us mere mortals that to get to the top it's a given that selfish, greedy, lying, dishonest, unscrupulous and odious behaviour is the order of the day...delicious reading.
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on 18 December 2014
This is a fascinating read, Bower has attempted to present Branson as a business tycoon stripped of all the media hype. What's left really leaves little to be admired. Of course some of the books source is fact, other information is gleaned from those who have suffered after failed business relationships. Virgin Galactic is particularly poignant. A major disaster with an engine test in 2007 and unknown to the author, the disaster of 2014. Eight years on those who paid 200k await their experience. The tax payer has enriched Branston whether by subsidy in his rail business or by his acquisition of businesses below market values. He owns few businesses today and struggles to operate Virgin Atlantic at a profit. I think his commercial acumen is tarnished and the book fairly demonstrates that involvement with Branston is a dangerous game.
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on 30 September 2013
Fabulous, ground-breaking and shocking. There's a reason why Branson was unable to sue the author and suppress the inevitable damage to his carefully crafted public image: what's here is completely, incontrovertibly true.
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on 22 August 2009
Having read Broken Dreams, Tom Bower's riveting read on the corrupt world of football transfers, it was the combination of author and subject matter that interested me in this book, and what a book!
I have to confess to being somewhat blinded by the Branson propaganda machine over the years, and readily accepted Branson's self-proclaimed title of "the people's champion".
Those who see this book as a petty, vindictive attack on Branson miss the point, Tom Bower has gone beyond the superficial and looked closely at Branson's life, his business deals and compared them objectively with his contemporaries. It is fair to say that, once the hype and spin are stripped away, Branson's achievements seem somewhat tarnished.
His bitter battle to break BA's 'monopoly' whilst at the same time opposing an 'open skies' policy, his talk of saving the planet whilst operating out-dated, fuel-hungry transatlantic planes and promoting 'space tourism', and his claim to give all profit to the National Lottery whilst levying a huge 'administration' fee, which would have meant less money for charity than Camelot would raise are just some of the examples of the chasm between statement and action.
I can see why Branson is so appalled by this book, it carefully pick apart a reputation build up over the years and lays bare the true nature of "the people's champion".
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on 6 October 2015
Reading Bower on any personal , you get what you expect. And maybe a bit that you do not want. But a good read and worthwhile for anybody interested in one of the 20th century personalities.
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on 12 May 2015
The book reads as though the author does have a bit of a grudge against Branson, and the subject matters do get a bit repetitive as the pages progress.
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on 20 August 2009
This is the best Branson story in my view. His own books gloss over too much of his life events but with Bower's book I enjoyed getting the nitty gritty and hearing the other side from the ex-colleagues, etc. If you want the unvarnished story, get this book! You'll learn about business as well as the life story of a legend.
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on 18 October 2012
This is a great work by Tom Bower.

It soon becomes clear that behind the inane grin, Sir Richard is a forensic operator.

What I still can't comprehend is how the bearded one manages to persuade erstwhile partners to pay much more for a share of a "Virgin" business than either it's worth, or when compared to what Branson puts in the pot.
It's also apparent that Virgin always seem to stand on the shoulders of giants - buying into businesses when others have done all the hard work. Getting out when the going gets tough or sticky (Virgin Trains).

Above all, I think the book underlines the laziness of our press. Always too ready to believe the PR puff than the real story that lies under the surface.
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on 5 February 2015
A really good read, has shown me an insight into the world of business.
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