Richard Branson’s go to to Winnipeg raises over $ 300,000 for charity

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This article has been published 04/10/2012 (3221 days ago) the information contained therein may no longer be current.

Almost 800 people huddled in the main ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel today to bask in the glamor of British billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

Everyone from the city’s business elite like Hartley Richardson, Arthur Mauro, and U of M President David Barnard, and many more young women than you normally see at a Chamber of Commerce lunch, seemed delighted to spend the lunchtime session listening to the charming Branson Kibitzing with Ace Burpee, the morning person at the newly branded Virgin Radio in Winnipeg.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson holds up the end of a tie he cut off Rob Farina, executive vice president of content at Astral Radio, during Branson’s Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Q&A at the Fairmont Hotel on Friday. Lunch and a week-long auction on Sir Richard’s private island helped raise over $ 300,000 for Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY).

Earlier in the day, Branson visited Virgin Radio (formerly Hot 103) studios.

He was also in town to start a pilot program to get cell phones into the hands of homeless and vulnerable youth.

According to the Sunday Times newspaper, Branson is worth $ 5.4 billion, with his Virgin Group empire spanning more than 200 companies in over 30 countries, including Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Virgin Mobile, which operate globally.

The event was reportedly organized by the Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for RAY (Resource Assistance for Youth), a Winnipeg social services agency that works with youth in need.

Sir Richard Branson in Winnipeg speaking to Ace Burpee on the morning broadcast 1031 Virgin Radio at the Fairmont Hotel this morning.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sir Richard Branson in Winnipeg speaking to Ace Burpee on the morning broadcast 1031 Virgin Radio at the Fairmont Hotel this morning.

And it was a resounding success when Winnipeg’s business elite reached into their pockets and raised more than $ 300,000 for RAY.

The charming billionaire with the famous big smile and golden curls served the renegade entrepreneurs’ merchandise and the audience sipped it.

During a demonstration against the restrictive symbolism of the tie, he cut off the Armani tie of one of his Canadian radio bosses, spoke out in favor of legalizing marijuana and, with a few kisses, granted the wishes of some enthusiastic women in the audience.

But many were there to soak up some of the business brilliance that led him to take over and win some of the largest industrial conglomerates.

Ashok Dilawri, owner of the Dilawri Group of Car Dealerships, said, “He’s an exceptional entrepreneur. I just wanted to see him and hear what he had to say.”

Branson also introduced “Phones for Change” on Thursday through Virgin Mobile Canada and Virgin Unite, two subsidiaries of the Virgin Group, an international giant he founded.

Phones for Change will partner with Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) in Winnipeg and Vancouver’s Broadway Youth Resource Center to give young people access to phones and monthly plans while educating them about the importance of financial management and how to get out of the debt cycle .

“With so much sacrificing at risk and homeless, a cell phone is more than an accessory; it is their lifeline for employment and services,” said Branson.

Youngsters nominated by each organization will receive a Virgin Mobile Phone. The pilot will run for a year in Winnipeg and Vancouver with the goal of expanding to other cities in 2013.

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The free press was with Branson all day. See his questions and answers over the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce lunch below.

– with files from employees

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Martin Cash

Martin Cash
reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news for the Free Press since 1989. Over the years he has described a series of economic cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) of the fortunes of many local businesses.

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