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Richard Branson and Virgin, Inc.

CASE DESCRIPTION

This case focuses primarily on entrepreneurship and the problems facing entrepreneurs in today's volatile economic environment. The case is appropriate for courses in entrepreneurship, small business management, and strategic management. The case examines the life of Richard Branson and Virgin, Inc. and has a difficulty level two. It is appropriate for freshmen and sophomores. It can be taught in a 75 minute course period and the case preparation time is approximately two hours.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Richard Branson built a billion dollar company based on numerous entrepreneurial endeavors, however he was facing one of the most difficult times in his career. The global economic crisis had a significant negative impact on his companies' revenues and earnings. Virgin, Inc. was down 40%. The world was stuck in the worst economic crisis since the 1930's. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) had collapsed 55% from 2007 to 2009 and the banking system was on the verge of collapse. Yet, Branson was optimistic because he was thinking about what opportunities lay ahead. He had five billion dollars in cash and needed to determine what strategies he must utilize to manage and grow his firm through this chaos.

INTRODUCTION

Sir Richard Branson was pontificating as he was flying in his hot air balloon trip from England to the United States. He had built a billion dollar company based on numerous entrepreneurial endeavors since his youth. As he reminisced about his life, he thought diligently about the dire economic situation the world was facing in March, 2009. The global economic crisis had a significant negative impact on his companies' revenues and earnings, they were down 40%. Furthermore, a lack of consumer spending and a new all-time low in consumer confidence were all having negative impacts on his businesses.

Virgin was trying to determine how they were going to navigate during the worst recession the United States had seen since the Great Depression. (1) The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) had collapsed 55% from 2007 to 2009 and the banking system was on the verge of collapse. The stock market had not collapsed like this since the Great Depression when the stock market fell by 89% from 1930 to 1932.

Yet, Branson was optimistic because he was thinking about what opportunities lay ahead. He had five billion dollars in cash and needed to determine what strategies he must utilize to manage and grow his firm through this chaos.

RICHARD BRANSON

Born in England on July 18, 1950, Sir Richard Branson's mother was a stewardess, father was a lawyer, and grandfather was a judge. Branson remembers his childhood with his two younger sisters as happy. His parents encouraged independence.

Branson's confidence in his ability to analyze a situation and make it work was evident early. Although he was a mediocre student, Branson insisted that he could run the school he attended more effectively and efficiently than the headmaster. One aspect of the school that Branson thought he could improve was the creation and enactment of school rules. Branson insisted that one rule he could improve was, "Allow all sixth-formers [final year students] to drink two pints of beer a day." (2)

The lessons that Branson learned and his personality traits were fundamental to his business success. Branson's mother, Eve, focused on challenging her children so they could enhance their confidence, growth, and development. According to Branson, "I remember that my parents continually set challenges for us. My mother was determined to make us independent." (3) Branson's mother was raised in a family that encouraged women to strive to live more than just a domestic existence. She had drive and determination and wanted to instill this in her children. By the age of 27, Branson's mother was married to Ted Branson (Richard's father), was a dancer, and was performing in local London theaters. When Eve met Ted she was employed as a stewardess for an airline that made trips to and from South America.

Branson attributed a lot of his creativity and initiative to his parents' upbringing. When he was four years old, Branson's mother demanded that he find his way back home after dropping him off in a remote location a few miles away in a field. Branson also recalled that his mother told him to ride his bike 50 miles to another town and then find his way home. Her purpose was to increase Branson's stamina and overall sense of direction. Eventually Branson began to embrace challenges that were set out for him. He saw them as opportunities to overcome weaknesses and conquer a small part of the world.

Branson's parents also encouraged him to think freely and voice his opinion. Branson was aware of his mother's passions; generating work for her children and creating ways to make money. Branson learned a great deal from his parents by watching them work hard. Branson's parents instilled the values of putting people first and the importance of teamwork. This fundamental value of understanding the importance of teamwork influenced Branson's appreciation and development of the culture at his future company, Virgin.

There was no television in Branson's house while growing up. His parents viewed watching television as a waste of time. The children were encouraged to use their time productively to improve themselves and their lives. Branson and his siblings were taught that shyness was frowned upon and that they should learn to be able to converse effectively in a social setting. Branson's business fever may have been ignited by his mother's propensity to create ways to raise money when family funds were running low.

Branson's father was an attorney and his grandfather, Sir George Branson, was a highly respected and reputable court judge. Branson's father was much less dominant in trying to mold his children's future habits. His personality was more laid back.

Schoolwork presented a significant challenge for Branson. Branson was dyslexic, nearsighted, and unable to read at age eight. His undiagnosed sight problem hindered his school success. Branson attended a boarding school, the Stowe School, as a teen. He was not a good student and dropped out of school by the age of 16. Branson stated that the headmaster told him that he would either be a millionaire or end up in prison.

Branson struggled academically through his school years, yet excelled in competitive sports, and was able to overcome most obstacles. Overcoming dyslexia and learning how to cope with this condition had a significant impact on Branson's approach from a business perspective. According to Branson, "Perhaps my early problem with dyslexia made me more intuitive: When someone sent me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures, I found that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read." (4)

Branson had the ability to see the broader vision; the bigger picture beyond the specific details. This assisted him greatly when it came to business creativity.

Branson was an entrepreneur from a very young age. He embarked upon numerous business ventures, such as selling Christmas trees and breeding budgerigars, a small breed of parakeet. Although he was not financially successful, he discovered a love for doing business. This love would never die.

Branson took an early departure from school and engaged in his first successful business venture, Student magazine. The magazine was geared towards 16-25 year olds; a category that Branson believed was underserved in the marketplace. The magazine was successful and at its high point had a circulation of up to one hundred thousand issues. By age 20 he had been the subject of a television documentary highlighting his Student magazine.

In 1970, Branson and his friend, Nick Powell, created a mail order venture focusing on the record industry. After this, they opened their first record store in London on Oxford Street. Branson started a recording studio and record label called Virgin Records in 1972. His first major signing was Mike Oldfield who wrote the soundtrack to "The Exorcist" called Tubular Bells. The album was on the UK music charts for almost five years. As Branson's reputation increased so did the quality of the acts he worked with which included: Genesis, Simple Minds, The Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, and The Sex Pistols.

Branson also had his share of disappointments. One of the most serious infractions was selling records illegally that were meant for export. He did not pay taxes, which led him in jail. Branson's parents came to his rescue by posting a pretty hefty bail by mortgaging their home. Charges against Branson were eventually dropped after he agreed to reimburse the state for the taxes that he should have paid.

The scrape with the law was one of many life lessons learned by Branson on his way to the top. Many of these incidents would shape the way he thought, felt and dealt with friends, foes, and the establishment.

Branson was known as one who rose to the top and remained there by being his own person. He instilled a belief in those around him that would carry them wherever they went. Branson was anti-establishment, light hearted, and creative. At times Branson was labeled as a hippie entrepreneur for the way he lived his life and ran his businesses. Even though Branson had made millions of dollars for himself and others, material possessions did not drive him. Being successful and enjoying what he did was much more important.

In 1999, Sir (a form of knighthood by British Royalty) was added to the beginning of Branson's name to recognize his contribution to service through entrepreneurship. His knighthood was another tribute to all that Branson had accomplished and contributed to the United Kingdom and the world.

Branson was also adventuresome. He was the first to attempt to travel across the world in both hot air balloons and sail boats. Not only was he the first to travel across the Atlantic and Pacific, but he set a record pace in doing this. He also made attempts at speed records in an amphibious vehicle. These activities were criticized by some as being reckless and childish. Branson was putting his life in danger along with the viability of the Virgin Group. With the criticism that Branson received, he also received massive amounts of free publicity for himself and Virgin.

VIRGIN

Branson's first profitable venture was called Student magazine, which was launched on January 26, 1968. The magazine's articles focused on "sex, rock music, interviews with terrorists, and proposals for educational reform." (5) The magazine was started as a hobby for Branson to dabble in during his down time. He solicited the help of other students to make up his staff. Branson ran the magazine without paying salaries to his aides. In exchange for their services, he provided them with room and board.

Branson then diversified into the mail order record business after four years of guiding his magazine. The mail order business was an expansion of the magazine, but it focused as a musical distribution outlet. Branson decided that the magazine had served its purpose and that he needed to move on to bigger and better things. Branson used his last print issue of Student to advertise his new venture of selling records. His start began with seizing the opportunity of attaining a stock of records from a discounter. With this purchase he was able to fulfill the demand created by the magazine's advertisements. Branson was also able to flip these records for a profit by selling them to music retailers less expensively than most middlemen.

Branson soon realized that he needed someone to keep track of the funds, regulations and other procedures necessary for smooth business operations. To fulfill this need he recruited a longtime friend, Nik Powell. In exchange for Powell's commitment to help grow Virgin and keep it on the right track Branson offered him a 40% share of the company. Powell brought the business expertise that was needed to run the day-to-day activities. Branson was more of the creative, idealistic part of the team. The two worked very well together.

Branson then opened a physical brick and mortar record store on Oxford Street in London in 1971. The existence of the mail order business was being threatened by a nationwide postal strike. Without mail carriers to deliver records there was no means for customers to acquire Virgin's product. So he opened a retail store.

Virgin then vertically integrated backwards by expanding into record publishing establishing a recording studio and signed major bands like the Sex Pistols. The first huge step for Virgin was signing Mike Oldfield who went on to release of the classic album, Tubular Bells, the Soundtrack to The Exorcist. Oldfield released this album in 1973 under the Virgin Record label. Oldfield had been rejected by many other labels only to fall into the lap of Virgin. Tubular Bells would sell over five million albums worldwide and lift Virgin Records into a notable player in the music industry.

Virgin also signed the Sex Pistols. Virgin's propensity to walk landscapes that were too risque for other more conservative labels was becoming legendary. The Sex Pistols were known drug users and lived obscene lifestyles. Virgin Records then expanded internationally and went on to sign Phil Collins, Simple Minds and Culture Club, which was headlined by another very controversial character, Boy George.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS

In 1984, Virgin began implementing an unrelated diversification strategy with startups in the airline industry, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Cargo. The airline business was very capital intensive, competitive, and volatile. There was stiff competition, financial demands, and uncertainty in the industry. Though many stop signs presented themselves, Branson thoughts this was an opportunity. Branson playfully joked about the extreme risk of investing in an airline by saying "The quickest way to become a millionaire is to be a billionaire and buy an airline'" (6)

Branson knew that there was a place for them in the airline industry; they just had to find it. He witnessed poor customer service and unpredictable, high pricing. He worked tirelessly to make his idea a successful reality. He brought in experience and intuitiveness in order to implement his vision. After getting through all the red tape, brainstorming, and preparation it was finally time to start the engine. In what would become known as typical Branson style, Branson dressed up as a World War I airman during the official launch of Virgin Airlines.

Management

Branson poured his heart, energy, time and capital into his airline. At this point Virgin Airlines was the only limb of the Virgin enterprise to receive a significant piece of Branson's personal attention. The day-to-day leadership responsibilities in the other Virgin companies had been handed over to loyal Virgin executives that Branson learned to trust. This was a common pattern for Branson; to create and learn a new part of his conglomerate and then hand the reigns over to a trusted member of the Virgin family to lead to the top.

Branson frequently gave the leaders of each division a share of the company that they ran. This practice provided extra incentives for the leaders to increase the bottom line. Branson often commented that he enjoyed making millionaires out of the people that worked for Virgin through this practice. After delegating the leadership roles to others in the company Branson would then have time on his hand for seeking out new ventures and planning publicity opportunities for Virgin.

The airline was a bit different than the other parts of the organization. Branson grew a personal tie to it partly because it was such a challenging endeavor. Effort by Branson to accelerate the success of the airline along with government regulations on airline pricing and unfair competition thrust Virgin Airlines into a threat amongst UK competitors.

Going Public

In 1985, privately owned Virgin Group went public. This gave Branson an uncomfortable feeling. Branson did not like giving up the control of his company. Though he was apprehensive about the move, Branson knew the benefits of being able to raise a tremendous amount of capital. The influx of investor money created many options for Virgin. The public offering was successful but not as successful as expected. After the company went public there was much discord between Virgin, Branson, and market analysts. Branson did not possess the type of leadership style that appealed to the conservative, traditional critics. After only two years on the public market, Branson bought the outstanding shares and brought Virgin Group back under private ownership.

Strategic Maneuvers

Though Virgin Airlines had become relatively successful and was pretty steady in the short term, Branson knew that in order to create long term stability the airline needed new investment capital. This situation caused Branson to make a decision that had no right solution. In order to raise the capital needed to keep the airline competitive, Branson had to sell his greatest asset, Virgin Records. Virgin Records was the crown jewel of the Virgin family and it was what made Virgin a household name. At that time (the early 1990's) Virgin was the world's biggest independently owned record company.

After much thought and steady negotiation the deal finally was made. Virgin Records was sold for $1 billion in 1992 to Bertelsmann and Thorn EMI. To this day Branson talks of his disappointment of having to make the decision to sell Virgin Records. He knew in his heart that it was the right business move for what he wanted to accomplish, but it still hurt him to let go of something that he had created and grown. In a way it seemed like Branson was proud of himself for being able to think with his head and not with his emotions. In his own words he has said that "Too many entrepreneurs have gone down because they were not prepared to cash in their chips at the right time." (7)

The cash raised through the sale of Virgin Records helped spawn new Virgin entities along with the expansion of Virgin Airlines. New innovations on the airline included: onboard masseurs, fashion shows, and tailors.

Over time, Virgin Group continued to embark upon numerous acquisitions and joint ventures which added more companies under the Virgin umbrella still with a non-related diversification strategy. Examples of this include the launching for Virgin Brides and Virgin Trains in 1996 and more recently the launching of Virgin Galactic (2004) and Virgin Fuel (2007). Additionally, the firm divested businesses such as selling Virgin Music Group in 1992 to Thorn EMI and Virgin closing its clothing company in 2000. For a list of Virgin's companies see Exhibit 1.

Even though Virgin was operating as a conglomerate with businesses in multiple industries with little in common except for the Virgin Brand, it was apparent that some related diversification occurred within subgroups, which are categorized in Exhibit 2.

While one can argue that these categories are indicative of non-related diversification, it was evident that Virgin was already recognizing particular industries/markets where it could expand and leverage its success.

VIRGIN IN 2009

Virgin's strengths included the following: (1) Strong brand equity: The Virgin brand name was not only associated with Richard Branson, but also embodied a rebellious, anti-corporate image; (2) Entrepreneurial leadership: Richard Branson was continuously looking to engage in new opportunities and considering new ventures, (3) Non-related companies: The Virgin Group consisted of over 200 individual, non-related companies. These companies operated on a standalone basis which allowed the underperformance of one company not to affect the collective group; (4) Strong Corporate Culture: The Virgin Group had a competitive advantage that cannot be replicated, its corporate culture. Virgin's employees were high performing, fun, high energy people that were continually thinking outside the box and looking to innovate; (5) Decentralized Organizational Structure: The flat organizational structure allowed for the firm to be flexible and responsive to market conditions.

The company also had several weaknesses including: (1) It was difficult for the market to identify core businesses/products of the Virgin Group: The initial brand of the Virgin Group, served as an antithesis to corporate bureaucracy; it was no longer consistent with some of its businesses such as Virgin Credit Cards; (2) There was poor financial performance of some of the individual businesses; (3) Some of Virgin's unsuccessful business ventures affected the brand negatively; (4) Brand recognition was most prominent in the United Kingdom; (5) The Virgin brand is heavily dependent on Branson's identity in the marketplace; (6) Virgin's businesses can be considered market players, but not recognized market leaders

Virgin had several opportunities and threats. Opportunities were: (1) The Virgin Group could leverage synergies between businesses; (2) International expansion: The Virgin Group can identify companies that can increase market potential through expansion into international markets; (3) Identify core businesses and focus on market growth in those particular sectors. Threats to the company included: (1) Brand licensing creates the potential for negative impact to the brand; (2) Maintaining the Virgin culture as Virgin acquires more companies; (3) Brand dilution in the marketplace: With the Virgin brand attached to so many companies, the potential exists for the brand to have less meaning to consumers; (4) The retirement of Richard Branson: The concern was whether or not the brand will maintain its market value without Branson to personally launch new companies, and (5) The international economic crisis will significantly impact the performance of numerous Virgin companies as consumers pull back their discretionary spending in categories such as electronics and travel.

In 2009, Virgin was reportedly still looking to expand to new territories. Unnamed sources claimed that Virgin had placed a bid to purchase a race car team (Honda Formula One). (8) No one associated with Virgin would comment on these claims but in a related move Virgin entered into a partnership to sponsor another race team in March of 2009.

With the world economy depleting in the last two years Virgin's businesses have seen down times. In the second half of 2007, Virgin America, a U.S. version of Virgin Airlines, "lost $227 million in its first 12 months of operation, far more than expected." (9) In April 2009 allegations were made that Virgin America was breaking the law because the company was not at least 75% American owned, which was a violation of U.S. regulations. (10) This situation was created when Virgin America's American investors sold off their share of the company to an unnamed party. The sale was undoubtedly because of the poor financial performance of Virgin America. Though Virgin American was not performing as Branson and Virgin hoped it would Branson still believed that there was opportunity in the U.S. Market.

Financial troubles are also hampering other parts of the Virgin Group such as Virgin Blue (an airline that operates primarily in Australia). The financial troubles for Virgin Blue have resulted in salary and pay cuts along with hiring freezes. With such a large portion of Virgin consisting of airline travel businesses, times were tough. All airlines, not just Virgin, had been struggling for at least the previous 24 months.

Also relevant in 2009 was Virgin Mobile. Virgin Mobile was started in 1999 and originated in the United Kingdom. The Company was primarily known and had been successful promoting its prepaid cellular phone services. Virgin Mobile also offered traditional services in the U.S. to select customers. During 2009 Virgin Mobile operated in seven different countries. Virgin Mobile had been especially successful in Canada for the four years previous to 2009.

In 2009 Branson was also looking to continue to expand Virgin Rails, Virgin's train service operation in the UK; begin an e-banking venture to complement its financial services division; and had collected "$40 million in deposits from would-be space tourists" (11) from future Virgin Galactic customers.

BRANSON'S KEYS TO SUCCESS

"Life is short; one has to make the most of it. Thus, do things that you like. If your work and your hobby are the same, you will work long hours because you are motivated." (12) Branson enjoyed doing many things which was one reason why he had been successful in so many areas. In Britain, Branson was known by his countrymen to be either one of two things: the country's best known businessman who walks on water, or a ruthless, wily entrepreneur who was always trying to get over on his rivals and skated on thin ice. Branson's real talent was his ability to inspire loyalty from people. He was known as a global entrepreneur who loved adventure. Branson had faith in his people and respected their ideas. He was not afraid to give credit to someone else even when it made that person look smarter than him. Branson realized that multiple perspectives and sources are an asset to the leader of an organization and not a threat.

Some of the success of Richard Branson and Virgin were related to the personality of Branson. He never gave up and was willing to take on hefty amounts of risk. Virgin had a strong brand recognition image and was in almost every industry imaginable. Even though most of the Virgin companies were not making huge profits, Virgin and Branson's keys to success included global brand recognition, an entrepreneurial focus, an adventurous leader, and the ability to take on challenges and risks.

Multiple factors influenced the combined success of Branson and The Virgin Group. The most significant of those factors was Branson himself, his willingness to take risks and embrace his entrepreneurial spirit. Branson was successful in creating an identity with Virgin that appealed to a specific target market and he has been able to build upon that brand as he expanded Virgin.

Some of the key characteristics that described Branson included: self- motivator, aggressive, risk-taker, financially organized, excellent negotiator, creative, flexible, very competitive, proactive, hardworking, and charismatic. Branson always networked with talented and important people.

Branson attributed much of his success to the people around him. Branson made it a priority to maintain a close, family-like organization. He believed that if the company was run by quality people who are treated well, then success was right around the corner. Every year Branson celebrated his employees with a party at his home. The employees were invited to celebrate the success that Branson attributed to the team. Branson has been known to point out that the preferred pecking order in terms of importance was employees or associates first; customers were second; and shareholders were third. Branson created an atmosphere in his business that promoted casualness and fun. He wanted people to have a good time at work as if they were immersed in a hobby. Branson was not known for paying large salaries and was not ashamed of this. He felt that truly enjoying your work made up for a few extra dollars.

Another business practice that Branson utilized was creating new businesses as opposed to buying existing ones. By expanding in this manner, it allowed employees to get in on the ground floor and learn about the business more intimately. This manner also provided a sense of ownership to employees knowing that they helped give birth, nurture, and grow the new entity. By building on this idea, Branson felt that he encouraged the production of quality products and/or services within the company. He emphasized that quality over quantity was the goal.

Another one of Branson's personality traits was the art of giving. His charitable ways created even more popularity amongst his many fans. Branson gave multiple donations to such causes as AID research, political publications to educate the masses, and rescue efforts for those affected by the first Gulf War. Branson made a bid to run the national lottery of Britain but was not successful. Part of his plan was to donate all the profits derived from the lottery to charity.

THE FUTURE OF BRANSON & VIRGIN

The major issue confronting Virgin in 2009 was how to survive and grow in the current economic crisis. The firm needed to identify its core competencies and determine what direction it wanted to go. Another problem confronting Virgin in 2009 was the impending retirement of Branson, from both an external and internal perspective. Externally, Branson and the Virgin brand are considered synonymous. However, what will happen when Branson is no longer the leader? Internally, the concern was who will be the leader and can they maintain the culture of Virgin.

Branson touched down his hot air balloon in upstate New York. His trip was finally over. He had enough time to ruminate about what his next moves were going to be for his company. Branson's entrepreneurial instincts had him excited about the future. He was anxious to get back to England and talk about his next moves with his top management team.

END NOTES

(1.) Willis, B. (2009). U.S. Recession Worst Since Great Depression, Revised Data Show. Retrieved November 27, 2009 from, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aNivTjr852TI

(2.) Ultimate Business Library (2003). Movers and Shakers: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Page 134.

(3.) Branson, Richard (1998). Losing My Virginity. New York: Three Rivers Press. Page 3.

(4.) Branson, Richard (1998). Losing My Virginity. New York: Three Rivers Press. Page 25.

(5.) Grant, Robert M. (2004). "Case 15: Richard Branson and the Virgin Group of Companies in 2004." Blackwell Publishing.com. Retrieved: February 1, 2009 from.https://www.blackwellpublishing.com/grant/docs/15Virgin.pdf

(6.) De Vries, Kets (1999) The New Global Leaders. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass Publishers. Page 29

(7.) De Vries, Kets (1999) The New Global Leaders. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass Publishers. Page 26

(8.) http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/ snapshot.asp?privcapId=36312 (May 19, 2009)

(9.) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6781/is_2009_March_2/ai_n31418860/ (May 19, 2009)

(10.) http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2009/04/13/story8.html (May 19, 2009)

(11.) http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20090509/virgin-sees-space-tourism-as-just- beginning.htm (May 20, 2009)

(12.) De Vries, Kets (1999) The New Global Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Page 8

Todd A. Finkle, Gonzaga University
Exhibit 1: The History of Virgin

1968    First issue of Student magazine, January 26.

1970    Start of Virgin mail order operation.

1971    First Virgin record shop opens in Oxford Street, London.

1972    Virgin recording studio opens at The Manor near
        Oxford, England.

1983    Virgin Vision (forerunner of Virgin Communications)
        formed to distribute films and videos and to operate in
        television and radio broadcasting.

        Vanson Developments formed as real-estate development company.

        Virgin Games (computer games software publisher) launched.

        Virgin Group's combined pre-tax profit climbs to 2.0
        million [pounds sterling] on turnover of just under
        50 million [pounds sterling].

1984    Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Cargo launched.

        First hotel investment (Deya, Mallorca).

        Virgin Vision launches The Music Channel, a 24-hour
        satellite-delivered music station and releases its first
        feature film 1984 with Richard Burton and John Hurt.

1985    Private placement of 7% Convertible Stock completed with
        25 English and Scottish institutions.

        Virgin wins Business Enterprise Award for company of the year.

        Virgin Vision extends film and video distribution
        internationally.

        Virgin Holidays formed.

1986    Virgin Group, comprising the Music, Retail & Property,
        and Communications divisions, floated on London Stock

        Exchange. 35% of equity sold to 87,000 shareholders.

        Airline, clubs, holidays, and aviation services remain
        part of the privately owned Voyager Group.

1987    Virgin Records subsidiaries in US and Japan launched.

        British Satellite Broadcasting (Virgin a minority partner)
        awarded satellite broadcasting license. (Virgin sells its
        shareholding in 1988.)

        Virgin acquires Mastertronics Group, which distributed
        Sega video games in Europe.

        Virgin Airship & Balloon Company launched to provide
        aerial marketing services.

1988    Recording studios opened in Barnes, London.

        New international record label, Virgin, launched.

        Virgin Broadcasting formed to further develop Virgin's
        radio and TV interests.

        Virgin Hotels formed.

        Virgin Megastores opened in Sydney, Paris, and Glasgow.

        Branson takes Virgin private with 248 million
        [pounds sterling] bid
        for outstanding shares.

1989    Virgin Music Group sells 25% stake to Fujisankei
        Communications for $150 million.

        Virgin Vision (video distribution) sold to MCEG of Los
        Angeles for $83 million.

1990    Virgin Retail Group and Marui form joint venture company
        to operate Megastores in Japan.

        Virgin Lightships formed to develop helium airships
        for advertising.

1991    W. H. Allen plc acquired. Merged with Virgin Books to
        form Virgin Publishing.

        Sale of Virgin Mastertronic to Sega. Remaining part
        of the business becomes Virgin Games.

        Virgin Retail Group forms 50:50 joint venture with W. H.
        Smith to develop UK retail business.

1992    Sale of Virgin Music Group to Thorn EMI plc.

        Joint venture with Blockbuster to own and develop Megastores
        in Europe, Australia and US.

        UK Radio Authority grants Virgin Communications and
        TV-AM plc the license for Britain's first national
        commercial rock station (Virgin 1215AM goes on the
        air in April 1993).

        Virgin acquires Euro-Magnetic Products, a specialist in
        the personal computer consumable market.

        Vintage Airtours established to fly Orlando-Florida Keys
        in vintage DC-3s.

1993    Virgin Games floated as Virgin Interactive Entertainment
        plc with Hasbro and

        Blockbuster taking minority equity stakes.

        Virgin Euromagnetics launches a range of personal computers.

1994    Virgin Cola Company formed as joint venture with Cott Corp.

        Agreement with W. Grant to launch Virgin Vodka.

        Virgin acquires Our Price retail music chain, owned 75%
        by W. H. Smith, 25% by Virgin.

        Virgin Retail Group forms joint ventures to develop
        Megastores in Hong Kong and S. Korea.

        Virgin City Jet service launched between Dublin and
        London City Airport.

1995    Virgin Direct Personal Financial Service is launched as a
        joint venture with Norwich Union (whose stake is later
        acquired by Australian Mutual Provident).

        Acquisition of MGM Cinemas, UK's biggest movie theater
        chain, to create VirginCinemas.

1996    Virgin Travel Group acquires Euro-Belgian Airlines to
        form Virgin Express.

        V2 record label and music publishing company formed.

        London & Continental Railways (in which Virgin is a major
        shareholder) wins a 3bn [pounds sterling]
        contract to build the Channel
        Tunnel Rail Link and operate Eurostar rail services.

1997    Virgin Rail wins bid to operate the InterCity West Coast
        and is awarded the 15-year rail franchise.

        Virgin Net, an Internet Service Provider, formed with NTL.

        Branson acquires a 15% stake in the London Broncos
        rugby league team.

        Victory Corporation, a joint venture with Rory McCarthy,
        launches the Virgin Clothing and Virgin Vie toiletry
        products.

        Majority share in Virgin Radio sold to Chris Evans'
        Ginger Media Group.

        Virgin Bride, a chain of wedding retailers, formed.

        Virgin One telephone bank account and "one-stop integrated
        financial service" launched in collaboration with
        Royal Bank of Scotland.

1998    Virgin Entertainment acquires W. H. Smith's 75% stake
        in Virgin/Our Price.

        Virgin Cola launches in the US.

1999    Virgin sells its UK cinema chain to UGC for
        215 million [pounds sterling].

        Virgin launches mobile phone service in joint venture
        with Deutsche Telecom's Oneto-One (November).

        49% of Virgin Atlantic sold to Singapore Airlines
        for 600 million [pounds sterling].

        Restructuring and re-launch of loss-making Our
        Price record stores.

2000    Virgin Mobile launches US wireless phone service in joint
        venture with Sprint and announces plan to expand into
        Europe, Africa and South-East Asia. Virgin Mobile Australia
        (a joint venture with Cable & Wireless) begins
        service in October.

        Virgin Net, Virgin's portal and ISP venture, closes
        its content division.

        Virgin announces the closing of its clothing
        company (February).

        Virgin Cars, online sales of new cars, launched.

        Virgin and Bear Stearns set up Lynx New Media, a $130
        million Internet-focused venture capital fund.

        Inaugural flight of Virgin Blue, Virgin's low-cost
        Australian airline (August).

        Branson knighted by the Queen.

        Virgin fails to win franchise to run Britain's
        government-owned National Lottery.

2001    50% of Virgin Blue sold to Patrick Corporation for A$138.

        Virgin expands into Singapore and SE Asia with joint
        ventures with local companies in radio stations, cosmetic
        retailing, and wireless phone services.

        Virgin.net merges its ISP and portal businesses.

        16 French Virgin Megastores sold to Lagardere Media
        for 150 million Euros.

2002    Virgin Bikes (UK) launched. Offers direct sale of
        new motorcycles at discount prices.

        Virgin Mobile offers wireless telecom services in the US.

2003    Virgin Blue initial public offering; Virgin retains
        25% of equity.

2004    50% stake of Virgin Money repurchased from AMP
        for 90 million [pounds sterling].

        Virgin Digital launched. Offers online music store
        and digital music download capabilities.

        Virgin launches Virgin Galactic

2005    Virgin Active UK acquires Holmes Place

2006    Virgin Fuel is launched

2007    Virgin Health Bank is introduced

        Virgin Media is launched

        Virgin America is launched

2008    Virgin Holidays + Hip Hotels created to provide style
        conscious travelers the best in travel.

        Virgin Healthcare opens their first centers.

Source: http://www.virgin.com/Companies.aspx# accessed
December 26, 2009.

Exhibit 2:

             Travel & Tourism

Virgin Holidays             Virgin Trains
Virgin Vacations            Virgin Charter
Virgin Holiday Cruises      Virgin Blue
Virgin Limousines           Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Balloon Flights      Virgin America
Virgin Limited Edition      Virgin Galactic
Blue Holidays               Virgin Nigeria
Virgin Limobike

             Finance & Money

Virgin Money

                 Health

Virgin Spa                  Virgin Life Care
Virgin Active               Virgin Healthcare
Virgin Health Bank

            Leisure & Pleasure

Virgin Games                The Virgin Voucher
V Festival                  Virgin Comics
Virgin Experience Days

          Social & Environment

Virgin Green Fund           Virgin Earth
Virgin Unite

        Media & Telecommunications

Virgin Media                Virgin Broadband
Virgin 1                    Virgin Mobile
Virgin Radio

                Shopping

Virgin Books                Virgin Digital
Virgin Vie at Home          Virgin Wines
Virgin Megastore            Virgin Drinks

Source: Source: www.virgin.com accessed October 13, 2009.
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Article Details
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Author:Finkle, Todd A.
Publication:Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Words:6192
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