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on 25 March 2014
For years I wondered why TV satirists were so mean about Richard Branson. Was this just another example of the British 'tall poppy syndrome', hating success?

Far from it. Read Bowers and find out the warts and all truth behind the Virgin story, its not nearly as successful as it seems.

The amazing thing is how brilliantly Branson has used the Virgin brand to fleece the British tax payer.

Worth the price of admission for the low down on the Virgin Galactic failure to reach space and for the anecdote about Branson hitting on Jensen Buttons girlfriend.
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on 2 October 2001
There is part of me that is upset at the details revealed in this book (like finding out that Father Christmas isn't real!) but there is also a part that finally understands why the daily commute into London with Virgin trains is such a pain!
Having read "Losing my viginity", "The Virgin King" and "Dirty Tricks", it was nice to see some balance added to the Richard Branson myth! The authorised books obviously record the story from Richard's perspective and Tom Bower delves behind the hyperbole to uncover an fascinating view of the Virgin empire.
I was already a fan of Tom Bower's work - once again he has produced a highly readable, interesting book. Superb!
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on 8 April 2014
Or maybe he has (I bought it a long time ago, only just got round to writing a review). If, like me, you'd always thought there was something dodgy about Richard Branson, this book will confirm your suspicions. Tom Bower did a nice hatchet job on Robert Maxwell, and he's done another one on Branson. If you just want to know the dirt, you can Google Branson and get the full SP in a few pages. But Tom Bower has a good writing style, and a book is a book.
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on 27 August 2015
Well written and superbly researched. I'd like to have seen more on the Little Red fiasco which was completely omitted. I am a self confessed airline geek of the highest order. I have worked with and for many high level company leaders and always knew Branson could not have got where he is without leaving wreckage behind him. However the scale of his ability to create smoke and mirrors is extraordinary. Yet he seems now almost a hollow cut out sailing into the sunset.

If you doubt how real these truth are just look at the Little Red saga at Virgin Atlantic - everyone knew from day one it would fail for all the reasons Virgin were warned about. Branson appearing with the usual blonds and in underpants saying "stiff competition" over his privates for photos at the press launch, it was all too fake. Then the recent TV series about the airline. He couldn't even remember staff he worked with for 30 years. He seemed disconnected. Young staff had never even seem him never mind met him. At the 787 route launch to Atlanta he made the most embarrassingly unscripted and impromptu speech I've ever seen. The audience looked shocked, disappointed, even dumbfounded. In 2012 there was a huge Virgin Galactic stand at Farnborough Airshow. In 2014 it wasn't even there.

So, read this book, look at what you can see for yourself - the adoration of a workforce - 500 of whom were made redundant just as the TV Show finished airing and yet it went almost unreported. Then look into the book again and it becomes sad, for Virgin and for Britain. We were all conned by the image makers and Branson's bluster. So while I may not like Branson or his modus operandi, will it stop me flying Virgin? No! An excellent book that deserves a wider audience.
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on 31 January 2014
Just bought the new Branson biography and I'm half-way through. So far, it's a fascinating page-turner packed with inside detail on the real manoeuvres that went on behind the scenes of well-known events. It's actually quite thrilling to ride along with Branson as he skates through billion-dollar deals by the seat of his pants!

This is really a sequel to Bower's first biography, so some of the background details of Branson's early career are referred to in brief detail and I'm not sure I would have made a lot of sense of them if I hadn't read the first one. But I'm not sure that matters - the focus here is on the rollercoaster ride of the last ten years or so and it does a great job of balancing the financial detail of his business dealings against the human drama to give you an insight into the real man, behind the slick marketing image.

Thoroughly recommended!
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on 22 August 2001
This is an excellent book to read if you want an alternative profile of RB rather than accepting the one portrayed in the popular media. Amazing detail of conversations and Virgin businesses.
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on 16 August 2015
Wow, only read three pages so far, but enough to see his company is owned by other companies, a dozen deep, before you find the final one is registered in the Virgin Islands, one of which islands belongs to Branson and is his home, and that his companies are owned by trustees which are secret as the Virgin Islands are tax havens and allow this. The trustees run the businesses for the benefit of the Branson Family.

We also learn that Branson has his Virgin HQ now in Switzerland. He avoids living and working in the EU like the plague, but tells us all we must stay in. "cui bono" (in whose benefit) !!!

Must end now, can't wait to get to page four!
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on 12 February 2014
I enjoyed Bower's first book on Branson and often wondered where things would go after Branson seemed to panic when it looked like he had lost the West Coast rail franchise. The book answers or at least speculates on many of the answers including Branson's failed entry into Formula 1 and the ever-running saga of Branson's long awaited, and seemingly unlikely attempts to get a craft into sub orbit for a few minutes whilst still taking bookings and huge sums of money from aspiring spacemen ....Bowrer's legal team were undoubtedly busy checking this book over . Would highly reccomend as it makes a fascinating read.
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on 29 December 2014
Bower dispassionately and exhaustively details the successful "long con" that is the career of Britain's "favourite entrepreneur". Branson, it turns out, is a master of smoke and mirrors, attaching his branding to a succession of ventures that have failed leaving others out-of-pocket but rarely costing him a dime, thanks to his propensity for using little of his own money to invest with. At long last we have the definitive answer as to why Beardie persists with those tiresome old-fashioned stunts and why he pushes his furry mug forward at every opportunity! It's because HE is the product; Virgin itself means virtually nothing in solid terms and is worth nothing without the illusion peddled by him that it's "edgy", "maverick" and "not just about profit". Underneath, every Virgin business is like every other business. Except perhaps less successful. So Richard carries on (and on) with the well-paid speeches about the environment, biofuels et al, does bungee jumps and issues empty promises about sending space tourists to "within a few hundred feet of the Moon's surface" and almost nobody bothers to check whether they have any substance to them. Well, until Bower wrote this engrossing book. The list of worthless Branson predictions in Bower's book is extensive and too large to print here. But despite his PR hype, Branson is not actually a billionaire, he's not even very good at starting at running companies (cf Virgin Cola, Virgin Bride, Virgin Trains) and he once got done for fiddling his Purchase Tax...however he is just superb at getting people to believe he's honest, clever and rich. Well done Richard. Shame about the companies though and the people whose original ideas you appropriated on your way to Necker but it's entirely fitting that you're bezzies with that other master of illusion Mr Tony Blair, so have another bottle of bubbly on us, Sir!
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on 6 November 2003
When I ordered this book I didn't realise it wasn't the official biography and within a few pages I'd decided this book was just an indictment of one of Britain's best loved businessmen by an author in essence jealous of Branson's success, feeling that he'd cheated to get to the top. My conclusion when I'd finished the book was that this book could have been so much better had the author stuck to fact and not opinion.
There's no doubt this book is well researched - I'm tempted to suggest that since I haven't heard of much in the way of legal action by Branson following its publication, its content is probably highly accurate (it's even got a very negative comment on the book by Branson himself on the back cover). In fact, from a content point of view I found it a very interesting book and a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. In particular, I was fascinated by the way Branson juggled his different ventures throughout this history of the Virgin brand.
What I was not so keen on however was the way in which the author used every opportunity he could in the book to draw conclusions that each event showed another reason why Branson was a cheat, a sulk, a bully, and a hypocrite. I found this rather sad as I felt it showed that strange British phenomenon of trying to knock down success stories of people who have made it. The world of business is not a nice place, to believe that any successful business is whiter than white is churlish - in some ways, the book provides a great introduction to how important brand marketing is, and that is something even the author acknowledges Branson is superb at.
Would I recommend this book? definitely, but be warned, there is a lot of opinion there which I don't really feel is warranted.
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