Sir Richard Branson is the founder and president of Virgin Group. Virgin is one of the world's most recognized and respected brands and has expanded into air and ground travel, telecommunications, financial services, health, space travel and clean energy through more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries. Companies include Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Comics, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Money, Virgin Charter, and Virgin America, the new domestic airline. Virgin USA continues to expand in North America and offer consumers value for money, good quality, innovation, exceptional customer service, fun, and a sense of competitive challenge. In 1999, Richard was awarded a knighthood by the Queen for "services to entrepreneurship."
In an effort to develop new approaches to social and environmental issues through business and social sector partnerships, Richard founded Virgin Unite, the not-for-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. In September 2006, Richard committed that future proceeds to the Virgin Group's transportation interests will be invested into renewable energy initiatives, representing an estimated investment of $3 billion over the next ten years. Richard also announced a $25 million prize for a viable technology that will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases. Recently, he joined Nelson Mandela, GracÌ§a Machel, and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders, a group of independent leaders that will seek sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. In December 2007, Richard was recognized by UNCA as Citizen of the Year.