17/11/2011 10:35 GMT | Updated 17/11/2011 11:28 GMT

Richard Branson: From Student Magazine To Outerspace (PICTURES)

Richard Branson's first successful business venture was a magazine called 'Student', which he set up at aged 16. The first issue was handed out on January 26.

In 1971 the first Virgin Record Shop opened at 24 Oxford Street, London. Behind the till, Richard Branson sold the first record – a Tangerine Dream album.

In 1972, Branson launched Virgin Records, and signed acts including Roy Orbison, Devo, Genesis, Keith Richards, Janet Jackson, Culture Club, Lenny Kravitz and The Smashing Pumpkins. It was later sold EMI in 1992.

In 1978 Branson bought Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands for £165,000 – to impress a girl called Joan Templeman. She married him and Necker is now part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio.

In 1979 the first Virgin Megastore opened at 14-16 Oxford Street in London.

In 1984 Branson took to the skies with Virgin Atlantic Airways. The airline began with a single Gatwick to Newark route. By 2010, Virgin Atlantic carried 5.3 million passengers making it the eighth largest UK airline.

In 1997 Virgin Trains was awarded the 15 year franchise for the InterCity West Coast, with the promise to introduce 40 high-speed tilting trains and reduce journey times considerably. SEE A SLIDESHOW OF RICHARD BRANSON'S BEST MOMENTS

In 1999 Virgin Mobile launched Virgin’s first consumer telecommunications venture. Branson was knighted by the Queen.

In 2000, a "financial services supermarket", was launched. Virgin Money introduced the Virgin Credit Card in the UK in 2002.

In 2004 Branson looked to the stars as Virgin Galactic – the first commercial space tourism company – was launched.