Money

When Richard Branson started out, he couldn't afford a home—so he bought this instead

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When Richard Branson started out, he couldn't afford a house—so he bought...

Before Richard Branson amassed his fortune and bought his own island, he was a 16-year-old high-school dropout who lived on the canals of London’s Little Venice. “I couldn't afford a home,” he tells CNBC Make It, but “I could afford a houseboat. So when I moved to London, I bought a houseboat on the canal.” It cost him £2,000. 

He named the the boat “the Duende,” which means "the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm,” and he moved in around the time he started Virgin, which began as a mail-order record retailer. “It was like living in a cottage in London. It was very cozy,” Branson recalls. Plus, “it was very good to attract the women, as a young teenage lad.”

Richard Branson reading the newspaper in the bath on his boat at Little Venice.
Michael Ward | Getty Images

It was also a productive work space. In a blog post, Branson names the Duende as one of the top five places he has worked most creatively.

Even after Virgin took off and had its own offices, Branson worked from his less-traditional home. When he and his wife had kids, the snug space allowed him to spend more time with his family, he notes on his blog: “I lived, worked and played in the houseboat, conducting meetings while I was babysitting and making sure I was around my kids as much as possible. Some of our happiest days, and greatest business deals, took place on the houseboat.”

Richard Branson at age 28, in front of his houseboat
Mirrorpix | Getty Images

In general, the entrepreneur prefers . As he writes in “The Virgin Way,” “I have never really worked from anything remotely resembling the conventional perception of an office. I started out in a church crypt before moving to Duende. … Next I inhabited what would usually have been the living rooms of our various family homes and then in recent years I have moved into a rattan chair or a hammock on Necker Island.

“I can put my hand on my heart and say I have never sat in the corner office!”

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