Miami is the shadiest place in the world, stocked with fraudsters, grifters, thieves, fakes, and ne’er-do-wells. Only in Miami do people hide stolen Rolex’s in their vaginas. Only in Miami do people bilk billions using grannies. Maybe the “only” isn’t true, but it happens here all the time, doesn’t it? At the end of this hell-hot peninsula bordered by shark-infested waters lies an inexplicable soul-dwelling darkness and incessant tangle of weirdsies cosmetically bathed in Vitamin D. If you can’t tone it, tan it, and the deeper the tan, the more bizarre things seem to get down here.
But there’s a laser beam of sunshine that’s been cutting through this South Florida pathology for years – Richard Branson, the constantly-beaming founder of Virgin Group, a global concern of feel-good brands that started as a tiny magazine then record shop in 1968/1972 but eventually got into the trains, planes and spaceship business. You’d be beaming too if you had $3.9 billion in your checking account and the utterly magnificent Necker Island in the BVI’s where you NBD kite surf with naked waifs clinging to your backside.
So in a Miami full of undeserving, inexplicably “successful” people salivating after your dollars, perhaps only Richard Branson deserves them, for everything he does is injected with fun, ethical and environmental responsibility. He’s nice, he transparent, he’s a lover, he’s your bro. He’s a thoughtful adventurer on weekends who uses his companies to spread cheer. Because he loves Miami and equates our city to a better future, he’s finally taking over the town with his new businesses.
Branson’s had a long, rich history with Miami. He owned a nondescript condo at 12th & Collins with his wife Joan. And then used South Beach as an audition hub (read: The Astor Hotel) and shooting location for his 2004 Richard Branson Rebel Billionaire reality show, where he took Miami locals like Steve Berke and Gabriel Baldinucci around the world to participate in adventure games. While Berke lost the show and ran for Miami Beach Mayor, and Baldinucci co-won TRB then worked for Richard for 5 years in Manhattan, the really big winner was Sara Blakely, the eventual self-made billionaire of Spanx, which magically slims the chubbiest people on earth.
And who could forget those times he threw Karolina Kurkova in the pool at the Mondrian after arriving by Cigarette boat for a Virgin Atlantic publicity stunt? Or helicoptered into Museum Park to announce his new cruise line?
All this activity brings us to today, because he’s launching at least three new businesses all headquartered here in South Florida.
Virgin Voyages, the new adults-only cruise line with rock star suites, spas, tattoo parlors and a private hideaway in Bimini where Mark Ronson and Diplo will be resident DJ’s, is launching in 2020. The first ship, Scarlet Lady, is almost complete, while Hull #2 is under construction. Naturally, the company is building a bonkers-beautiful cruise terminal downtown on Dodge Island just 30 minutes from Virgin Voyages world headquarters right here in Plantation.
Virgin Hotels has just announced a gleaming, roof-tastic new hotel tower opening in 2023 near Mary Brickell Village, which is super convenient because the Virgin Hotels world headquarters is right here at Mayfair in Coconut Grove. Did we mention that the almost finished Virgin Hotel in NYC was designed by Miami-based Stantec Architecture?
Lastly, Virgin Trains has taken over the Brightline brand and announced that by 2022, you’ll be able to board a Virgin Train from PortMiami and arrive in Orlando and vice versa, with eventual service to Tampa and Jacksonville. And of course Virgin Trains’ headquarters is right next to Miami Central station.
When Branson’s done, Miami will be Virgin territory, with trains, ships and hotels to whisk you away, visit ports of call and lullaby you to sleep. Who else in Miami, what captain of industry, what visionary, is doing more exciting, fun and ambitious projects in our city? No one. Take our money now.