Richard Branson, one of the wealthiest people in the world, is worth an estimated $4.9 billion. The serial entrepreneur has built eight billion-dollar companies and continues to innovate wherever he can.
But Branson wasn't always a financial success. During his early years leading Virgin Records, he nearly let the company fall into bankruptcy a number of times, and that's a mistake he regrets, he tells Reuters.
"I can remember a number of occasions earlier in the history of Virgin when the bank manager came to see me on the Friday and told us he was going to close Virgin down on Monday morning," Branson says. But the experience did teach him to get creative with the business: "We would spend the whole weekend scrambling around to avoid going bankrupt and somehow would always find a way to keep going."
After opening the first Virgin Records store in 1971 and the accompanying recording studio in 1972, Branson built the business from the ground up. He signed major acts including the Sex Pistols and, later, the Rolling Stones.
Still, despite how much he loved Virgin Records, Branson wasn't able to keep the label going. As time went on, other ventures competed for his attention. When his airline Virgin Atlantic was taking off, for example, it faced fierce competition from rival British Airways.
Dealing with the back-and-forth demanded the majority of Branson's time and focus and he ultimately decided that the best way to keep everything afloat was to sell the record company.
Although the deal allowed Branson to keep Virgin Atlantic going — and earned him $1 billion in the process — he calls selling Virgin Records to EMI "one of the most painful things I have ever had to do." Still, it paved the way for him to move on to other projects and expand Virgin into the conglomerate it is today.