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The History of Virgin Media
What do the Sex Pistols, a Nigerian airline and an UK broadband provider have in common? The answer is Richard Branson, one of the most successful business magnates.
The story of Virgin begins in the early 70s when Branson started from scratch by selling records he advertised in a student magazine he was running. As his business grew bigger, he opened a record shop on Notting Hill Gate together with his friend Nik Powell. They named it Virgin Records and Tapes to symbolize their lack of experience in the business.
The shop specialized in unusual genres like krautrock and offered free vegetarian food to attract more customers. It was a success, and in 1972 they turned it into a record company that would soon gain international recognition. Virgin Records became famous for signing avant-garde bands or artists other studios wouldn’t sign, like the Sex Pistols.
Virgin Record’s first release was Mike Oldfield’s debut album Tubular Bells, and it was a best-seller. Branson later said that the studio let Oldfield record for free which was a risky but clever move that brought them a lot of profit. While most people would stick to the successful record business, Richard Branson sought out new challenges. In 1984 he started an airline named Virgin Atlantic Airways and continued with air traffic, starting several other airlines including Nigeria’s national airline in 2004. Still, one of Branson’s most profitable moves was the founding of Virgin Media in 2006. Aware of the expansion in the world of communications and media, Branson started with a mobile phone company in 1999 that merged with NTL:Telewest into what is now called Virgin Media.
Virgin Media was the first quadruple-play company in the UK and it currently offers a whole range of internet and telecommunication services such as three different Virgin Media TV packages, landline telephone, internet and mobile network services. The company owns its own fiber-optic cable network which makes it unique in the UK. It has around 5 million customers, over 12,000 employees and several billion pound yearly revenues.
Still looking for new investments, Branson has started several interesting business since, including a space tourism company, a stem cell bank and a comic book company. We can’t help but wonder what will Virgin Group come up with next. Do you have any suggestions?