Who will take the Branson crown?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Sir Richard calls up the kids in the family business

The Rothschilds, the Murdochs... and now the Bransons. Virgin could become the next great business dynasty after Sir Richard asked his well-connected children to help run his £2.5bn business empire.

At 62, the tie-less tycoon is already considering a succession plan to ensure that his sprawling corporate interests, which encompass banks, planes, trains and space travel, continue to thrive once the master of the publicity stunt decides it is time to withdraw from the limelight.

With the Virgin brand so closely associated with a youthful veneer, Sir Richard has called upon his son Sam, 27 and daughter Holly, 30, to become more visible "front of house" representatives of the company, as its founder approaches retirement.

"I may be pushing my son out more as I get a bit older, and my daughter," Branson told the Financial Times. "Companies benefit from faces (and) I think Virgin would definitely benefit if Holly or Sam were willing to be more of a face of it."

Dynastic successions rarely go to plan – as Rupert Murdoch is discovering. Virgin, which encompasses 400 companies owned by offshore trusts and overseas trading companies, is hardly a conventional business to inherit. Sir Richard generates tens of millions of pounds each year by licensing the brand name to various ventures but doesn't sit on the board of any of the companies in the Virgin group. His buccaneering image has often proved the Virgin Group's greatest asset, which makes a successor from within the Branson gene pool such a tantalising prospect for the entrepreneur.

Holly and Sam will be joining dad on Virgin Galactic's debut, two-hour, voyage into space next year. But his well-connected offspring may not be ready just yet to take on responsibility of piloting the entire Virgin enterprise.

In June, Sam, who runs his own television production company, proposed to his girlfriend, the actress Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe during a two-week trip to visit lemur colonies in Madagascar, before enjoying a summer that culminated in a birthday party on his father's private Necker Island in the Caribbean, attended by Prince Harry. A chip off the old anti-establishment block, He once smoked weed with his father and is making a documentary about the "war on drugs", a battle that Richard passionately believes has failed.

Holly is already ensconced in the family business and has a desk at Virgin HQ, where the former qualified doctor now works on business development and special charity projects. After marrying the ship broker Freddie Andrews in Necker she visited India to see how money donated by Virgin Atlantic passengers had benefited a village in Rajasthan.

Last month Holly and her friend Princess Beatrice returned from climbing Western Europe's highest peak, Mont Blanc, to launch their new charity Big Change Charitable Trust.

Her entrepreneurial instincts are unproven. In 2010 Holly launched Project, an iPad magazine, which has yet to convert its A-list cover stars into digital sales.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations expert who has created marketing campaigns for Virgin, said the heirs would inherit a very different company. "Virgin is a venture capital exercise now, most of its assets are not operated by the Branson estate and it has lost everything that once made it great but it still retains this remarkable ethos."

Branson was always the outsider but Sam and Holly, with A-list pals straddling royalty and celebrity, can carve a fresh way forward for Virgin. Borkowski said: "No one could match Richard's sense of showmanship but the children are different. They are well-connected in a way that he never was and they can protect the brand but change the style when they take over."

"I don't expect the children to jump out of a plane but they will be able to represent what a company like Virgin needs to be to advance in the 21st century."

There is little sign that Sir Richard has lost his appetite for new brand extensions. Yesterday he announced his arrival into the concert promotion business with Virgin Live. Branson will copromote The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary concerts in London and New York. VIP tickets for the highest-grossing band in music will sell for £1,000 at the O2 Arena shows.

Sir Richard hopes to promote more big names, taking on the two giants of the arena concert world, AEG and Live Nation.

Virgin Galactic, a bold venture Sir Richard hopes will seize his children's imagination, is signing up celebrities for its first £128,000 flight.

All in the family: Dynastic successions

The Bronfman family

Immigrant Canadian bootlegger Samuel Bronfman created billion-dollar Seagram drinks empire. Grandson Edgar Bronfman Jnr, right, moved into entertainment. Lost control of Universal Pictures. Bought and sold Warner Music; wrote songs for Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand.

The Murdoch family

At 81, Rupert Murdoch refuses to give up power yet dreams of a family succession at News Corp. His youngest son, James, is to take over Fox TV Networks and his eldest, Lachlan, is snapping up Australian media assets. But daughter Elisabeth, 44, untainted by scandal, is the one to watch.

The Lagardère family

French playboy Arnaud Lagardère, 51, inherited a chunk of father Jean-Luc's media and aerospace empire but was criticised for using firm's AGM to announce he had got his model girlfriend pregnant. Now chairman of defence firm EADS, he struggled to explain breakdown of BAE merger.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss