When Richard Branson first heard about the Virgin Islands in the 1970s, he was intrigued. After all, he had started a company called Virgin a few years earlier.
“I had no idea where they were located or that they were actually called the British Virgin Islands,” the billionaire entrepreneur writes in a blog post about purchasing Necker Island. “But one Thursday in 1978, I was told that they existed and that I could potentially own one.”
He picked up the phone and rang the realtor: “We were still in the early days of Virgin Records, and I by no means had the cash to buy an island. Luckily, the realtor didn’t know this and offered me an all expenses paid trip to see the Islands that weekend. I agreed to go on one condition — if I could bring a guest,” recalls Branson, who was trying to impress a girl at the time.
The realtor was asking for $6 million for the 74-acre Caribbean island, and Branson only had a fraction of that. He didn't give up: “Keen to impress my new love, I offered the highest amount I could afford: $100,000. As you can imagine, the realtor was less than impressed and left us high and dry to find our own way back home.”
One year later, however, the owner of the Necker Island still hadn’t received an offer and was “desperate to sell,” says Branson. “Virgin Records was in a much better position than it had been a year before, so I quickly agreed to a purchase price of $180,000.” That’s about a 97 percent discount from the original asking price.
“The only condition was that I would need to build a resort on the Island within four years,” says Branson. His island retreat now attracts celebrities and entrepreneurs and has even welcomed former President Barack Obama.
As for the girl he was trying to impress back in 1978, the gambit worked: “I married her there 11 years later,” says Branson.
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