The Man Who Helped Richard Branson Launch Virgin Atlantic

Spirit of Sir Freddie - Legends Report

Richard Branson a legend and an inspiration for entrepreneurs and life adventurers alike, but I am particularly fascinated by the help he received to launch Virgin Atlantic in 1984 - one of his highest profile businesses. Branson pays tribute to his mentor Freddie Laker in helping him start and then later defend the airline in his quote for The Sun newspaper;

"It's always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn't have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker. Now, I love mentoring young entrepreneurs. As American author and businessman Zig Ziglar said: "A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could." "Find a mentor."

Freddie Laker was one of Britain’s highest profile entrepreneurs in the 1960’s and 1970’s and was regarded as one of Margret Thatcher’s ‘Golden Boys of Industry’ along with Clive Sinclair and Alan Sugar. At this time, Laker launched the ‘Skytrain’ service under his own airline, Laker Airways. He is regarded as the founder of the low-cost airline model - also mentoring Stelios Haji-Ioannou when his EasyJet business was the subject of British Airways bullying tactics. He was only able to add this value after going through a similar situation with BA when starting his own airline.

When Laker mentored Branson, he helped the Virgin chairman establish a vision for a high-value, low-cost airline and passed on the knowledge of what it would take to build and establish an airline in a very cut-throat industry. Laker also brought a sense of fun and humour to the business in much the same way as Branson himself is now known for and he earnt so much appreciation from Branson and the Virgin team, that the Boeing 747-123 pictured above is named: 'Spirt of Sir Freddie'.

Through the mentorship that Branson received from Laker and others, he could overcome any obstacle in his path. In fact it is not unfair to say that it is only because he received mentorship, that he was able to overcome bigger and bigger obstacles. Legends are not legendary straight out of the box! They earn it by asking for help, making mistakes and learning from them, so they know what help to ask for next time. What is truly fascinating is how every legend always has a mentor behind them, and my next question is; 'So who was Freddie Laker's mentor?' I don't know who he or she was yet, but I guarantee that there would have been key people in Laker's life who helped him to become one of the most progressive and pioneering entrepreneurs of the 1970's.

Here's a question for you to share in the comments below... If you could be mentored by anyone - past or present - who would it be and what would you ask for their advice on?

by Tom Hasker, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

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Virgin Atlantic aircraft 'Tubular Bells' courtesy of Aero Icarus @ Flickr, Virgin Atlantic aircraft 'Spirit of Sir Freddie' courtesy of Areo Icarus @ Flickr,