Virgin Group: Finding New Avenues for Growth
The head of the branded private investment company owner of the Virgin brand reflected on the group's new pillars of growth. Since the 1970s when Richard Branson created the Virgin record retailing company, Virgin had developed from scratch six companies worth more than $1 billion each and changed their focus from record retailing and music production to a broader one based on airlines, health, financial services, mobile and media businesses. In addition, Virgin had been able to apply the Virgin brand to several different products without harming the brand. Their challenge had been finding the capital to finance the new ventures rather than the brand. Since 2005, Branson was dedicating more and more time to a charitable organization, Virgin Unite, and had appointed Stephen Murphy the new CEO of the Group. As Murphy contemplated their growth strategy for the next decade he faced a number of difficult decisions. First, how should he fund new ventures? While growing, the Group had sold stakes in its companies and had signed with them licensing agreements for the use of the Virgin brand name. The Virgin Group was today a loose group of companies some linked to Virgin only by brand licensing agreements. Should they expand by signing new licensing agreements? Second, what kind of opportunities should he seek? Should they keep acting as a venture capital firm, nurturing new ventures as in the past or should they invest in larger and more established companies? What would be the consequences of their choices on the brand and on the Group? Would they always be able to inject the Virgin culture and turn around companies?