MEGA-BRAND ADDS BANKING TO ITS WIDE RANGING INTERESTS

VIRGIN MONEY

With the purchase of 74 Northern Rock branches, the Virgin Money brand has just got a whole lot bigger. It already has a banking licence, having purchased Church House Trust, a tiny bank, in January 2010. It offers credit cards in conjunction with MBNA; mortgages in a joint venture with RBS-backed The One Account; insurance provided by InsureandGo; and a variety of savings and pensions products. It could review these partnerships after yesterday’s deal.

VIRGIN ACTIVE GYMS

Even after yesterday's deal, Virgin will still own more gyms than banks. With 125 fitness centres and health clubs, Virgin Active is the second-largest gym chain after Fitness First. Having explored both a flotation and sale to a private equity house in recent years, we think Richard Branson (pictured right) will exit the business soon.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC

According to pollster YouGov, Virgin Atlantic is the top-rated airline brand in the UK. A 50/50 joint venture with Singapore Airlines, the long-haul airline has triumphed by preventing a funky, fun alternative to its arch nemesis British Airways. After yesterday’s purchase, many will be asking whether Branson can do the same in the banking sector.

VIRGIN TRAINS

Virgin Trains, run as a 50/50 joint venture with Stagecoach, is Britain’s second most popular domestic train company, according to YouGov. If Branson can build a successful company in the much-hated rail industry, he could make a fist of banking.

VIRGIN MEDIA

Virgin Media, formed by in 2006 by the messy merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin Mobile, still suffers from legacy issues inherited from the two old cable companies. According to YouGov it is still more popular than BT Vision and BSkyB. The latter scuppered its ambitions by buying a blocking stake in ITV to prevent its planned merger with the broadcaster.

VIRGIN MEGASTORES

First opened in Oxford Street in 1971, Virgin Megastores recently departed from the British high street. Branson sold out to management in 2007, who rebranded the chain Zavvi before it collapsed a year later. Branson got out just in time. Virgin Megastores still exist in America, continental Europe and the Middle East.

VIRGIN RADIO

Virgin Radio is, like many of Branson’s ventures, nothing more than a brand. Virgin Group owns the brand, but the radio stations are owned and managed separately, although they do get access to exclusive content from V-Festivals (see right). Virgin Radio was fronted by Chris Evans (pictured above) between 1998 and 2000 but has since been renamed.

V-FESTIVAL

Never one to miss out on a cultural trend, Branson sponsored his first music festival in 1996. Since then, there have been 16 V-Festivals in the UK, and a host of others in the US and Australia. Branson might not have much to do with the gigs these days – the V actually stands for Virgin Media, in which he only has a minority stake – but the branding does help cultivate the cool image that seems so important to Virgin’s success.

THE FLOPS

VIRGIN COLA 
Initially successful, the might of Pepsi and Coca-Cola eventually proved too much for Branson. It is still sold on board Virgin aircraft and in Virgin cinemas, but commercially it has been a complete flop.

VIRGIN VIE
Cosmetics brand that disappeared in 2009.