Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Losing My Virginity

I borrowed this book from a friend at O&M. I have vaguely heard about Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airways, goes around the world in Hot air baloons, etc. In short a showman.

So it was with some skepticism that I picked up his autobiography, Losing My Virginity. I thought it would be another ego trip like Iaccoca (by Lee Iacocca) or Odyssey (by the former Apple CEO John Sculley). However I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is as much about business as the ones written by Sam Walton and Jack Welch. Branson is frank, brutally frank in some aspects and doesn't portray himself as an all conquering hero or a playboy. He freely admits that he didn't know much about music bands and it was his cousin Simon who identified the potential winners to sign up. He doesn't get into lurid details of his affairs and marriages but states them as a matter of fact.

Behind the showman and publicity hound you find an ordinary man with extraordinary belief in himself. Thus when his business is cash strapped in 1982 he buys an island. In 1992 when his record business is doing well and his airlines is facing a crunch, he takes the bold step of selling the records division and putting his money into the airlines business. Interspersed with these business details are his adventures, crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in hot air balloons, winning the Blue Riband for the shortest time to cross the Atlantic ocean in a speed boat, etc.

The book is an interesting read and I read the entire thing in one sitting, through the night. I liked the way he took on British Airways and exposed their dirty tricks in maligning him. Once again he doesn't portray it as a David vs Goliath battle. He takes the reader through the pain and fear of those days, how he just wanted them to stop the tricks and was afraid of taking them to court till the last minute.

Interesting book about an interesting person

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