Despite all of the hubbub surrounding the Grand Opening of Virgin Hotels Chicago, Sir Richard Branson took a minute to relax and enjoy a spot of tea with A Drink With at Cerise Rooftop! Richard opens up about the opening, being called ‘Grandpa’, and how life gets better with age. Read the full interview.
ADW: WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT YOU’VE HAD THAT HAPPENED OVER A DRINK?
SRB: Oh my God. It has to involve a woman doesn’t it? I think the first night I took my lovely lady out to dinner. It was a Mexican restaurant, and I gave her a lot of sangria. It worked! [Laughs] And now she is the mother of my children and grandchildren, so that was an important sangria or two or three or four…
ADW: WITH YOUR CHILDREN HOLLY AND SAM HAVING BABIES OF THEIR OWN NOW, HAVE YOU HAD A HEART-TO-HEART ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
SRB: My daughter is the sensible one in our family, so she is the one we go to for advice. She was a trained doctor, and she was head girl at school so she is very, very sensible and fun as well. I don’t need to have a heart-to-heart with her. She has to have a heart-to-heart with her dad occasionally, but I think if I did give them any advice… I do think that getting that balance is very important in life. Play hard, work hard. I play tennis in the morning, tennis in the evening. I kite surf, and I look after the body. If you’re healthy and well everything stems from that and everything is possible, but equally we get those horrendous hangovers occasionally and we do party hard as well.
ADW: HOW DID RECREATING THE “TWIST & SHOUT” DANCE SCENE FROM “FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF” IN THE STREETS OF CHICAGO COMPARE TO OTHER COMPANY LAUNCHES AND SURPRISES IN THE PAST?
SRB: Well, were you on the street today? [Laughs] We create quite a lot of fun businesses around the world and our team works enormously hard to get it right. I look at this beautiful floor [here at Cerise the rooftop bar], all around me, everything they’ve done is fantastic. The least I can do is make sure people know about it. The team comes up with these wonderful fun ways of putting Virgin Hotels, or whatever it is we are launching, on the map. That was an iconic film; it was Chicago through and through.
ADW: WAS IT THE FIRST IDEA THE TEAM PITCHED?
SRB: It was the first idea they pitched to me … My initial reaction was not so much that it was perfect. I could see it being absolutely perfect if I was 25 years old. I’m approaching 65, so I thought, “65 year-old rock ‘n’ rolling?” Then I thought, “Screw it, let’s do it!” They were the most wonderful, fun young dancers, and I think we wrecked a Tesla by jumping on its roof.
ADW: ARE YOU GETTING USED TO THE NAME GRANDPA?
SRB: They aren’t old enough yet to say it but it’s going to be grand-dude. I’ve had three grandchildren all in the last two months so we are very lucky. We spend lots of time with them and everybody who has children or grandchildren thinks they’re magical and the most beautiful creatures on Earth and of course they are.
ADW: IF YOU COULD HAVE DRINK WITH ANYONE, WHO WOULD IT BE?
SRB: George Clooney was asked that question. He said, “Richard Branson.” He said that he thought I led a fun life and my wife of course immediately said, “I’ll swap you for him for 24 hours.” But thinking about that, he’s married to this rather beautiful lady, [Amal Clooney], so I suppose I would like to swap as well. It’s like we are just going to have to have one of those swaps.