Book Looks at Branson, Warts and All

Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.
Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.

The Observer’s Alley Canwath takes a look at an updated edition of Branson, an unauthorized biography of the British billionaire first published nine years ago:

Among the responses to the original version of this book in 2000 there was one that Tom Bower must have particularly relished. It came from Branson himself, who said with a customary flourish: ‘What I have read has offended me on every single level … it is a foul, foul piece of work from the first words to the last – really rotten, nasty stuff.’

Celebrity endorsements don’t come much better than that, and the reasons for Branson’s fury aren’t hard to understand. Bower not only presents a damning alternative history of Branson’s company, Virgin, showing it lurching from crisis to crisis; he also takes aim at what Branson holds most dear – the Branson brand. Bower repeats Branson’s assertion that ‘you don’t have to be a complete shit to be a success’ more than once, but the swashbuckling entrepreneur is presented here as petulant, publicity-crazed and mean-spirited….

Since Branson has long since been supplanted in the public eye by Alan Sugar and the current crop of fresh-faced internet entrepreneurs, there’s little in the updated section – including his pay TV battle with the Murdochs and his attempted takeover of Northern Rock – to justify the decision to republish.

Read the full review.