Richard Bransonentrepreneur, adventurer
Birthplace: Sharnley Green, Surrey, England
With little formal education, he began a mail-order business for discount records in 1969, then opened a retail store, called Virgin, in London in 1971. He shrewdly expanded the retail operations, using the profits to fund diversification of the enterprise into a recording company, more retail outlets, the Voyager Group travel company, Virgin Atlantic airline, Virgin Radio, Virgin Direct, and V2 Music. His adventurous spirit extends beyond the boardroom to flying. He broke the record for speed in crossing the Atlantic in 1986, and was the first to cross the Atlantic (1987) then the Pacific (1991) in a hot-air balloon.