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5 Forever or Forgotten: The Legacy of Today's VIPs - Part 2

Richard Branson: FOREVER

History simply can't forget Richard Branson, we all take too much pleasure from the unending stream of Virgin jokes and puns. To wit, Branson's Virgin Group nurtures more Virgins than the average convent. Har har.

Corny, but true; from Virgin Active (health clubs) and Virgin American (airline) and down through the alphabet to Virgin Vacations (travel agency) and Virgin Ware (apparel), the Virgin Group Web site lists over 400 Virgin companies on six continents . . . and beyond, Virgin Galactic is developing sub-orbital, $200,000 space holidays. It's motto, brace yourself: "Space is Virgin Territory."

Of course, we all know that Branson's privately held empire is something of a shell game; a phalanx of accountants couldn't untangle his actual ownership from the spaghetti bowl mix of Virgin subsidiaries. Estimates of Sir Richard's relatively modest fortune, less than $5 billion, suggests that he's better at licensing the Virgin name than building bona fide companies.

But do trivialities such as ownership stakes really matter when you're Richard Branson? Of course not, Beardy Branson is a national hero; the history-conscious UK's answer to, who else, Steve Jobs. His huckster-like business antics, his swashbuckling exploits in sea sloops and hot air balloons, his genuine humanitarian initiatives and, natch, his hair, will titillate Branson's admirers and detractors for generations to come.

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