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Richard Branson: Bottom Line

Having built Virgin Records into a respected label, Richard Branson decided the time was ripe for breaking into the airline business:

"There was a lot to learn about starting Virgin Atlantic," he later recalled, "so I asked Sir Freddie Laker [founder of Laker Airways and of Britain's famous 'SKYTRAIN' service] whether he could help me. He gave me advice and then said, 'Another thing, Richard, is the stress. I'm not kidding, you should have regular medical checkups.' He said, 'You need to go to the doctor and ask him to stick his finger up your bum. He'll be able to tell you what's what.'

"Later, as Freddie was leaving, he turned to me and shouted, 'One last word of advice, Richard: When you're bent over and the doctor's got his finger up your bum, make sure that he hasn't got both his hands on your shoulders!'"

["I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Virgin Atlantic Airways," Branson later remakred. "We started the business in 1984 and almost all my colleagues at Virgin said I was completely mad to go into the airline business. The newspapers said calling an airline Virgin was mad. The company is now worth over ?1billion, it has fantastic people working for it and every time I see a Virgin tail fin at an airport around the world, I feel genuinely proud that we changed the way the airline business worked in the capitalist west."]

[In May 2003, Branson bought Australia's heart-shaped Makepeace Island (in the Noosa river on Queensland's Sunshine Coast) with plans to turn the retreat into an eco-tourism site for the use of his 25,000 Virgin Group staff.]

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