Losing My Virginity

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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 6/7/2011
  • Publisher: Crown Business
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"Oh, screw it, let's do it." That's the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none. Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that "since we're complete virgins at business, let's call it just that: Virgin." Since then, Branson has written his own "rules" for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy. Many of Richard Branson's companies--airlines, retailing, and cola are good examples--were started in the face of entrenched competition. The experts said, "Don't do it." But Branson found golden opportunities in markets in which customers have been ripped off or underserved, where confusion reigns, and the competition is complacent. And in this stressed-out, overworked age, Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in Branson's life. Losing My Virginity is a portrait of a productive, sane, balanced life, filled with rich and colorful stories: Crash-landing his hot-air balloon in the Algerian desert, yet remaining determined to have another go at being the first to circle the globe Signing the Sex Pistols, Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Boy George, and Phil Collins Fighting back when British Airways took on Virgin Atlantic and successfully suing this pillar of the British business establishment Swimming two miles to safety during a violent storm off the coast of Mexico Selling Virgin Records to save Virgin Atlantic Staging a rescue flight into Baghdad before the start of the Gulf War . . . And much more. Losing My Virginity is the ultimate tale of personal and business survival from a man who combines the business prowess of Bill Gates and the promotional instincts of P. T. Barnum. Also available in the UK from Virgin Publishing, and in Canada from General Publishing, From the Hardcover edition.


"Oh, screw it, let's do it."

January 1997
Tuesday, 7 January 1997, Morocco

5:30 a.m.-- I woke before Joan and sat up in bed. From across Marrakech I heard the wavering cry of the muezzins calling people to prayer over the loudspeakers. I still hadn't written to Holly and Sam, so I tore a page out of my notebook and wrote them a letter in case I didn't return.

Dear Holly and Sam,
Life can seem rather unreal at times. Alive and well and loving one day. No longer there the next. As you both know I always had an urge to live life to its full. That meant I was lucky enough to live the life of many people during my 46 years. I loved every minute of it and I especially loved every second of my time with both of you and Mum.

I know that many people thought us foolish for embarking on this latest adventure. I was convinced they were wrong. I felt that everything we had learned from our Atlantic and Pacific adventures would mean that we'd have a safe flight. I thought that the risks were acceptable. Obviously I've been proved wrong.

However, I regret nothing about my life except not being with Joan to finally help you grow up. By the ages of 12 and 15 your characters have already developed. We're both so proud of you. Joan and I couldn't have had two more delightful kids. You are both kind, considerate, full of life (even witty!). What more could we both want.
Be strong. I know it won't be easy. But we've had a wonderful life together and you'll never forget all the good times we've had.

Live life to its full yourselves. Enjoy every minute of it. Love and look after Mum as if she's both of us.

I love you,

* * *

I folded the letter into a small square and put it in my pocket. Fully clothed and ready, I lay down beside Joan and hugged her. While I felt wide awake and nervous, she felt warm and sleepy in my arms. Holly and Sam came into our room and cuddled into bed between us. Then Sam slipped off with his cousins to go to the launch site and see the balloon in which I hoped shortly to fly around the world. Joan and Holly stayed with me while I got dressed and spoke to Martin, the meteorologist. The flight, he said, was definitely on; we had the best weather conditions we'd had for five years. I then called Tim Evans, our doctor. He had just been with Rory McCarthy, our third pilot, and had bad news: Rory couldn't fly. He had mild pneumonia, and if he was in a capsule for three weeks, it could get much worse. I immediately called up Rory and commiserated with him.

"See you in the dining room," I said. "Let's have breakfast."

6:20 a.m.-- By the time Rory and I met in the hotel dining room, it was deserted. The journalists who had been following the preparations for the launch over the previous twenty-four hours had already left for the launch site.

Rory and I met and hugged each other. We both cried. As well as becoming a close friend as our third pilot on the balloon flight, Rory had been joining forces with me recently on a number of business deals. Just before we had come to Morocco, he had bought a share in our new record label, V2, and had invested in Virgin clothes and Virgin Vie, our new cosmetics company.

"I can't believe I'm letting you down," Rory said. "I'm never ill-never, ever."
"Don't worry," I assured him. "It happens. We've got Alex, who weighs half your weight. We'll fly far further with him on board."
"Seriously, if you don't come back," Rory said, "I'll carry on where you left off."
"Well, thanks," I said, laughing nervously.

Alex Ritchie was already out at the launch site, supervising the mad dash to get the capsule ready with Per Lindstrand, the veteran hot-air balloonist who had introduced me to the sport. Alex was the brilliant engineer who had designed the capsule and t

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