Entries in Richard Branson (1)


Billionaire Richard Branson: 'Glad to Be Alive' after House Fire

Mark Wieland/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It was a scene straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie, including Titanic actress Kate Winslet saving a would-be victim's life, when Virgin mogul Richard Branson's private island residence erupted in flames in the middle of the night, leaving guests 15 minutes to escape before the home was reduced to rubble.

"It was something of a nightmare, reminded me of the film, Mandalay, Branson said Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America. "We're all glad to be well, glad to be alive, glad to have gotten through it."

Branson was staying with wife Joan and son Sam in one of the five smaller Balinese-style villas on his famous $70 million vacation property on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands when a fire broke out around 4:00 a.m. Monday in the compound's "Great House."

Branson's 20 guests, including actress Kate Winslet, were staying at the fourteen-bedroom complex.

"I was woken up by my son banging on my window," Branson recalled. "We stayed about 100 yards away from the 'Great House,' looked across...and there were 200-foot flames billowing out of it."

Branson, 61, said he wasted no time, running "stark naked" from the villa up the hill toward the fire-ravaged house, nearly getting stuck in a cactus.

"We just ran stark naked towards the house. I went straight into a cacti bush," he said. "My son ran on and fortunately people had woken up inside and our nephews did...a good evacuation."

Each of the 20 houseguests staying at the complex were able to leave the burning house in safety, Branson said.

Branson credited Winslet with saving his 90-year old mother, Eve, from the fire. The Oscar-winning actress, who was a guest of Branson's at the luxury compound along with her daughter Mia, 10, and son Joe, 7, played the role of hero and carried Branson's mother to safety from the burning building.

"Of course, she was obviously desperate to get her children out and my mother was there so she whisked my mother up in her arms and took her down the steps and anyway, and all is well," Branson said.

The exact cause of the fire is under investigation, but it is believed to have been caused by a lightning storm caused by Hurricane Irene, with winds of about 80 mph.

The fire burned up Branson's paradise playground and 30-years of mementos and memories along with it. Still, the billionaire said he intends to stay on the island and rebuild the house as soon as possible to accommodate his daughter's wedding. Holly, 29, had planned to tie the knot at the getaway this winter.

Branson has owned the idyllic property, located in the British Virgin Islands, since 1978. The previously uninhabited island has since been developed to include a number of private villas, in addition to a main house, which can accommodate up to 28 guests at a time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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