In almost 50 years of business, I have launched hundreds of new ventures. There is an enormous thrill in starting something from scratch – the excitement of entering a new market, of building a team, the fun of disrupting the status quo.
Over the years I’ve had to take many leaps of faith as we moved into fields we knew little about. I signed an unknown musician named Mike Oldfield and created my own record label because I’d never before heard anything quite like Tubular Bells.
I convinced Boeing to lease me a jumbo jet to start a single-plane airline from London to New York, because I knew there was a gap in the market for an airline that really cared. I ordered tilting trains when we did not have a track ready to run them on, because it would eventually speed up journeys.
But no matter what the challenge – and there were many we got wrong too – I always made sure I understood the downside risks involved before I leapt in. Today, the UK faces a decision where the risks are great. My reputation is of being a risk-taker – the cat with nine lives – but leaving the European Union is not a risk I would want to take. Not as an investor, not as an entrepreneur and certainly not as a father and grandfather concerned about the world we leave to the next generation.
I am one of a rare breed of business people still going who can remember what it was like before the European Union was formed. When I took my first steps in business in the 1960s and 70s, trade and travel were a drag.
In those days I couldn’t move my people between Britain and continental Europe without visas and months and months of trying to get permission. I couldn’t move goods between Britain and Europe without high taxes and the enormous bureaucracy that went with it.