Friday, January 6, 2012

Sir Richard Branson Charms Dallas at UT Southwestern's "Conversation With a Living Legend"

Credit: Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner
Sir Richard Branson, global entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group, shared his unique business perspective in an interview with Miles O'Brien at "A Conversation With a Living Legend" to a rapt audience of over 700 guests this past Wednesday, January 4 in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole.

There are lots of people who think they are important, but there are very few people who have an energy that takes over when they enter a room. I'm talking about the kind of palatable presence that commands the attention of every person in the room, and you become rapt with attention because you know that whatever this person says, is going to be worth listening to.  Oprah has it. Bill Clinton has it. And Sir Richard Branson definitely has it.

I met Sir Richard last Spring when he came to Big D for the launch of Virgin America and I love being around such a unique, adventurous spirit. Branson is a true Renaissance Man: having dropped out of high school at the age of 16, he founded Virgin at age 20 as a mail order record retailer and later expanded it into a record shop and recording studio. Virgin Music became one of the top six record companies in the world.

Miles O'Brien and Sir Richard Branson

He got big laughs out of the audience when he recalled how he almost named the music company "Slipped Discs" because he had so much trouble getting the proper English authorities to approve the name "Virgin".  And shook his head in wonderment over his good fortune to sell that company some 20 years later for $1 Billion dollars, right before the total collapse of the music industry.

Branson realized his dream of opening the world's first commercial space tourism business with the launch of Virgin Galactic, designed to take passengers to suborbital space. He spoke at length about his focus on space travel and how "in our lifetime" he will be taking 2-3 flights of 6 people a day into space. He already has 500 people who have prepaid for this opportunity of a lifetime. So cool!

This 22nd annual luncheon benefited research and patient care initiatives at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  This year's event has raised over $825,000 to date and since its inception in 1990, "A Conversation With a Living Legend" in Dallas has raised more than $10.5 million.

With every $1 million the event raises, MD Anderson creates a new endowed Dallas/Fort Worth Living Legend Chair for Cancer Research at MD Anderson, enhancing the institution's ability to recruit and retain new faculty of the highest caliber, advance its research and patient care initiatives and train future generations of physicians and scientists.