Virgin founder Richard Branson has been accused of being out of touch. Picture: Adam Davy/Pool/AFP
Virgin founder Richard Branson has been accused of being out of touch. Picture: Adam Davy/Pool/AFP

Billionaire’s ‘beyond offensive’ tweet

Colourful British billionaire Sir Richard Branson has unleashed a Twitter storm by sensationally claiming money doesn't buy happiness.

The Virgin founder - who has a staggering estimated net worth of $US4.1 billion ($A5.9 billion) - took to the social media platform yesterday to post a sweet photo of himself with wife Joan Templeman.

It was accompanied by the caption: "I truly believe that 'stuff' really does not bring happiness. Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters."

It immediately sparked an avalanche of criticism, with countless Twitter users accusing the father-of-three of being a "hypocrite" and wildly out of touch - especially considering he is the 34th richest person in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

In fact, the 69-year-old is so wealthy he owns his own 299,467sq m island, a private jet, a yacht and a string of luxury properties around the globe.

He's also expanded his business empire into space travel through space tourism company Virgin Galactic, which aims to take paying customers into suborbital space.

Despite his phenomenal fortune, in 2017 Mr Branson was involved in a high profile dispute with the UK's public National Health Service (NHS), which is similar to Australia's Medicare system.

The stoush arose after Virgin Group's health and care services division, Virgin Health, lost its bid to supply children's services in Surrey, England, representing a loss of tens of millions of pounds.

High Court proceedings were launched and in the end, Virgin Care controversially won £2 million ($A3.5 million) in taxpayer-funded settlements.

That NHS controversy has also been dredged up by the latest Twitter uproar, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leading the charge.

"Perhaps our NHS could have the money back from when you sued it?" Mr Corbyn tweeted in response to Mr Branson's original post.

The Opposition leader's tweet has attracted tens of thousands of likes, retweets and comments.

 

Several years ago, Mr Branson also copped criticism after revealing his primary residence was now on Necker Island, located in the British Virgin Islands, where income is not taxed.

The rich-lister nominated Necker as his tax base, which means he no longer receives the tax bill he previously received when his main residence was officially in the UK.

Many social media users have also raised that notorious tax avoidance in light of Mr Branson's Twitter misstep.

However, it is also worth noting that the eccentric mogul - who made his first million in his early 20s - is known for his generosity and philanthropy.

He is a member of the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world's wealthiest people to dedicate most of their wealth to giving back to the world.

He's also promised to give away $3 billion over 10 years to help the fight against global warming, and spends the majority of his time working on Virgin Unite, his company's charity sector which supports a number of causes and non-profits.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au

 



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