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Sir Richard Branson on Steve Jobs

Virgin founder says Apple's Jobs not 'a great people person'

While Apple will continue on without its co-founder, Steve Jobs, who passed away earlier this month, it would do well to find a new public face according to Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson.

Speaking at McAfee's Focus11 conference in Las Vegas, Branson, who featured in an Apple commercial some years ago, said that while both the Virgin and Apple brands no longer needed dedicated founders to help push them forward, the companies did benefit from having front people. He was already looking to "pass on" the Virgin baton to his son or daughter.

"It is good to have a face because people relate to companies [with a public figure]. It is sad that Steve Jobs' kids are so young so it will be very difficult for them," he said.

"However, I'm sure the team at Apple will try to make sure his legacy continues for many years to come."

Branson, who learnt to delegate day to day operations to his managers early -- Virgin Group is now made up of 400 separate companies -- said that while he admired Jobs, he could never embrace his hands-on approach to management. "Steve had a very different kind of management style, one that I wouldn't recommend, but it worked extremely well," he said. "He was very autocratic, would not delegate and had all the minutia he wanted to be involved in."

According to Branson, Jobs' personality was "not necessarily that of a great people person."

"Having said that, he was such a genius that people wanted to work for him and Steve achieved remarkable things."

In fact, Branson said that if he had stayed in the music business with his original company, Virgin Records, he would have had a tough time staying afloat due to Jobs' innovations such as iTunes.

"When I started Virgin Airlines, I was told that I should stick to what I know but we carried on diversifying into other businesses such as trains and airlines," he said. "If we had stuck with Virgin Records, Steve Jobs would have put us out of business with the iPod and the internet."

Richard Branson's security lesson

Branson also admitted that he had learnt an important security lesson following a fire that burnt down his house on Necker Island in the Caribbean during August 2011. While all his files were backed up, the back up tapes were stored in the house.

"We should have gone to a decent [security] company to advise us better," he joked.

However, Branson said that the loss of personal data "did not really matter" as his family escaped the blaze.

"You do realise in the end that you need to back up things from a business point of view and it's stupid not to do it properly but in the end photographs and notebooks are nice to have but not that important."

Hamish Barwick travelled to Focus11 as a guest of McAfee

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU


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