Virgin Atlantic outrage: How billionaire Richard Branson dubbed tipping ’embarrassing’

In an interview with the Guardian in 2002, the Virgin founder gave his verdict on tipping, claiming he does so on performance. He said: “I certainly tip larger if I feel that people have done their work with a smile. But I don’t splash out because I think that’s embarrassing.” At the time, Branson was worth at least £1billion, a figure which now stands around £3.5billion.

In the interview, he discusses how he deplores being wasteful with money and how he can’t justify buying such things as expensive art, or bottles of wine worth more than £10.

He even says that his Necker Island in the Caribbean, bought as a personal holiday retreat, had to be a business proposition before he considered it properly.

Mr Branson said: “We go there quite a lot. It’s almost our real home because when we’re in the UK we’re all working, and when we’re on the island we’re relaxing.

“If we’re talking about personal luxuries – and the luxury of being your own boss – the biggest reward is the amount of time one can find for family and friends.”

The businessman grew up in a middle-class family.

The 2002 Guardian article claims his father was a barrister struggling to make his mark and not quite earning enough to match outgoings, so his mother was always finding things to make or sell to pay for holidays.

They would turn off the light bulbs when the children went to bed so that even today, struggling through dark corridors to find the loo is a vivid childhood memory.

Mr Branson added: “The idea of having a possession that is there just as pure luxury, and is not actually paying its bills is something which I’d be embarrassed about.

“My parents drummed that approach into me. By contrast, my wife was brought up in a very poor part of Glasgow – with four or five children sleeping in the same bed – and she cannot understand my frugal approach. She says: ‘You only live once, so you can afford to buy a decent suit’.”

The Virgin founder also discussed his less successful business ventures

His car firm – Virgin Cars – had recently given a Jobs & Money reader a hard time, turning a 13-week wait time into 25 weeks.

In a letter to the Guardian, Sir Richard said the blame lay with car makers who wanted to control the market.

However, one project that he described as his biggest failure was his attempt to knock Coca Cola off the top of the drinks market with Virgin Cola.

Speaking in 2017 to Guy Raz on the ‘How I Built This’ podcast, he said: “We decided to take on Coca Cola.”

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In the UK, his new venture enjoyed immediate success.

The billionaire said: “We had some big smiles on some days thinking, ‘Coke is the best known brand in the world, and if we could topple Coke, we thought it would be a lot of fun.'”

But it would backfire as Virgin Cola started disappearing off the shelves. Not because customers were buying it, but because its competition was willing to go to any length to undermine it.

Mr Branson revealed in the interview how Coca Cola used ruthless methods to crush Virgin Cola’s competition.

He said: “Coke went to retailers. They gave them offers they couldn’t refuse.

“And literally Tescos that had shelves and shelves of Virgin Cola, suddenly they just had no Virgin Cola on the shelves. And it was a very systematic kneecapping job.”

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