Sir Richard Branson, CEO and Chairman of Virgin

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, October 15, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

Watch Your World w/Cavuto weekdays at 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: He’s one of the most successful and outrageous businessmen on the planet, building the Virgin empire, creating over a hundred companies that offer everything from music to air travel.

Today, Sir Richard Branson is at it again, launching the newest company in the Virgin family. It is called Virgin Pulse. It’s an electronics line that will offer top-of-the-line products for low prices. How will they weigh in with the competition?

With us now, Sir Richard Branson, the chairman and CEO of the Virgin Group.

Sir Richard.


CAVUTO: Now you’re into electronic chatchkas.

BRANSON: Well, we like challenge, and then we thought Sony had had it their own way for many, many years, and so we teamed up with Target initially to put our foot in the water, and we’ve created a range of electronics, which we think are sexy and that look great and that the consumer would like.

CAVUTO: But why would I want yours?

BRANSON: Well, although we like to think we’ve got a strong brand with Virgin, we haven’t sort of put the brand -- two or three hundred extra pounds -- on top of the price for the product. So we’ll be offering great value products.

And we’ve also, I think, come up with some really innovative products. To give one example, it’s a flat screen TV, DVD, CD, radio all rolled into one, which you can attach to your back seat and keep all your three children quiet when you’re traveling places.

CAVUTO: But are these made or designed under the Virgin name? Who’s making this?

BRANSON: We’ve innovated them, designed them, and then we’ve gone to different manufacturers around the world to produce them.

CAVUTO: So you’re kind of like a chic Sharper Image.

BRANSON: Yes, I mean there are around the world about 30 or 40 very good manufacturers of products. You know, we’ve actually gone to those manufacturers, told them, you know, exactly what we want, some of the insides we designed ourselves, and what they don’t have is a strong brand.

You know, Sony manufactures their own products, and these other manufacturers don’t have a strong brand. So Virgin being one of the top 20 brands in the world, I think, has got a chance of taking on Sony. But, for the next 12 months, we’re going to be modest…

CAVUTO: You’re going to be modest? You’re going to be modest, all right. I want to record this particular conversation!

BRANSON: We’re just going to sell them in Target and in the Virgin Megastores, you know, test the market, and then, at the end of that period, we’ll go global, and then, you know, work out which products the people like the most and where we should be, you know, pushing forward.

CAVUTO: I remember you had said not too long ago that the secret of your success was always innovating, always trying new things, and always willing to gamble in new areas, and it’s certainly paid off richly for you and your company.

But do you ever worry about spreading yourself too thin? You know, of the hundred-plus companies you created, some succeed, some do not, and I wonder if it confuses people that Virgin is now getting to be equated with so many things, it’s lost its main luster.

BRANSON: Well, I mean, recently, we launched Virgin Mobile in America, and, 18 months later, we’d nearly sold a million mobile phones, and, you know, I hope in the next couple of...

CAVUTO: But are you making money at this?

BRANSON: It will be an enormously profitable company for us, so...

CAVUTO: But it’s not now, right?

BRANSON: We’ve obviously been in a start-up phase. We’ve invested nearly, you know, $300 million. Once you’ve broken through the million people, next year, we expect to sell two-million more phones, so we’ll be up to three-million phones, and it will be very, very profitable business.

Now based on the success of Virgin Mobile, Target has said, look, you’ve a great brand, you should move into electronics and we’ll give you the best displays...

CAVUTO: But do you worry a lot of that cache -- and this isn’t false praise your way -- is because of you? That if there were a less hip, cool guy running the firm, maybe Virgin wouldn’t carry that cache, maybe all the hot chatchkas in the world wouldn’t make a difference? Let’s say you’ve got a nerd running the firm. Then you’d be in deep trouble, right?

BRANSON: Well, as long as that nerd delivered good, quality products at good value and kept on shaking up, you know, the Sonys and the British Airways and so on, then I think even nerds will sell.

CAVUTO: Even nerds will say.

Sir Richard Branson, best of luck with this.

BRANSON: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Thank you, sir, very, very much.

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