virgin-group-business-progilesRichard Branson, the owner and founder of the virgin group, has recently committed to donating proceeds of coming years profits to charity. The total amount donated to charity could reach 3 billion dollars.

I read Branson’s book recently, “losing my virginity“, and he is certainly one of the most interesting entrepreneurs around and has been brilliant in building a brand name.

But he has had to overcome many obstacles, including British Airways attempt to destroy him, and the following excerpt from his book describes one of the more humorous bumps in his road. He has just met the band “dire straits” for dinner in anticipation of signing them the next day on the virgin label. This was very early in the history of virgin so it was a big deal.

“On the evening before we were due to sign contracts, we took the band out to our favorite greek restaurant off Westbourne Grove to celebrate it. It was an enjoyable meal. Since all the negotiations were out of the way we could relax and look forward to producing the record. At the end of the meal the Greek owner came out carrying two saucers, one upturned on top of the other. With a conjurer’s flourish he lifted off the top one to reveal ten marijuana joints. I rarely took drugs after my LSD experience but this seemed a nice way to end the evening, and in order not to offend the restaurant manager, who clearly thought he was doing us all a great favor, I took one. Everyone smoked a joint and the evening wound down.”

“The next morning Dire Straits called up and told us that they were going with PolyGram. No reason was given. Simon and I were horrified. We couldn’t believe it.”

“What’s the matter?” Simon asked. “We’ve got everything in place. There’s nothing more to agree.”

“No reason,” they said and cut off all communication with us.

“There was nothing Simon and I could do to persuade them to change their minds. It was only ten years later when I read a book about Dire Straits that two little sentences explained it:” “The band did not sign with Virgin since they thought that Virgin had plied them with drugs before signing to befuddle them.”

“That well meaning, spontaneous gesture by the Greek manager, which Dire Straits had seemed to enjoy at the time, cost Virgin Records over 500 million. Meanwhile, Dire Straits went on to become one of the worlds top bands, with their album Brothers in Arms selling eighteen million copies.”

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