Magazine article The Spectator

The Greatest One-Man Show on Earth

Magazine article The Spectator

The Greatest One-Man Show on Earth

Article excerpt


by Richard Branson

Virgin, f20, pp. 469

Have no fear, Branson is here! He grabs you on page one and never lets go. His story is compelling reading and would be a classic `how to' lesson for life, if you had the will to follow his example. He's larger than life, and it shows on every page. Hurry, hurry, read all about it.

Branson is the most admired businessman in Britain today, according to the poll that concerns itself with that. And so he should be, as not only does his enterprise inspire others, but he works hard on his image. He's knocked the establishment `grey suits' out of the box and the public, not just the business world, rightly admires him. You name it, he's started it, and mostly succeeded. And talk about foresight! He formed his own publishing company in 1991, probably just to produce this book.

He knows he's the business image of today, and it's all there in his far from modest autobiography. His life has been a roller-coaster ride, and he writes that way. Dramatic ups and downs, simple, bright, exhilarating, leaving you safe and sound at the end. 'I believe in you,' as the windowcleaner later to become chairman of the board sang to the mirror in How to Succeed in Business. That's Richard. He believes in him. But there's nothing wrong with that. Britain, more than ever, needs more entrepreneurs, and here comes Richard to fulfil your every need - on anything, friends, from cosmetics to an airline ticket.

But the `grinning pullover', as Lord King described him? Is there substance? I think so. Is he as nice as he seems? Or is he a snake-oil salesman? His book tells all and reveals that he's something of each.

The Virgin child: pushed hard by his parents to achieve more and more, even at the age of five he was desperate to win the ten shillings his Aunt Joyce had promised him if he could learn to swim during that summer holiday. ('I had never held that amount of money before.') Oh, he made it all right, but only on the car journey home, in a river where he insisted on having a last try and nearly drowned in his. . . yes, successful attempt. And his life has been true to that pattern. Try, try, try again.

The Virgin student: his early outstanding sports ability came to a sudden end with a serious accident in a school soccer match at the age of 12. Being a non-sports student, a disaster, as he says, at British public schools, he occupied his afternoons in the school library where the ideas about his future career began to germinate. …

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