The 70-year-old Virgin Group tycoon planted Christmas trees in the backyard of his red-brick home in the English countryside when he was just a teenager. He planned to sell them at a profit, but rabbits ate the saplings, decimating his merchandise.
His next venture? Selling mail-order records. In 1971, at age 21, Branson was arrested for a tax evasion scheme involving the way he was selling the records. His mother posted the US$45,000 bail.
These failures only made Branson think bigger.
In 1972, Branson used his mail-order business as a springboard to found Virgin Records – a name which came from the conceit that he and his cohorts were “virgins” in business. They had their first major hit with Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells in 1973. The company went on to sign the Sex Pistols, Phil Collins and The Rolling Stones.
Today, the Virgin empire also includes an airline, hotels, a space tourism company and much more. Forbes estimates Branson’s net worth to be US$4.5 billion.
Now, the red-brick home that played such an essential role in the making of this billionaire is for sale.
Known as Tanyards Farm, 0.5-hectare (1.4-acre) property is 48km (30 miles) southwest of London in the quiet Sussex village of Shamley Green. Jason Corbett of UK Sotheby’s International Realty holds the listing.
Branson’s parents acquired the home in 1963 from a viscountess, according to Mansion Global.
While Branson now lives on his private island, Necker, in the Caribbean’s British Virgin Islands, the home played an important role early in his career.
He and future Virgin Group co-founder Nik Powell spent £5 (about US$6.50 today) to buy enough seeds to plant roughly 400 Christmas trees in the land around the home. They planned to sell each tree for £2 (US$2.60).
He describes Tanyards Farm as the setting for his first entrepreneurial failures, including the Christmas tree plot, in his 1998 autobiography Losing My Virginity.
In the book, he called the property a “rambling building with many barns and sheds and some land.”
The Branson family later sold Tanyards Farm, and a different owner has just put the property on the market for US$5.2 million.
The listing agent, Jason Corbett of UK Sotheby‘s International Realty, said in a statement that the house is “full of history, character, warmth and charm”.
Tanyards Farm has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, according to the listing. Besides serving as a window into the making of a billionaire, the property also offers a quintessential British country experience being located near a cricket green and two local pubs – perfect for toasting a successful career, or the beginning of a new one.
The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.