“I saw a man at the side of the road, and said to my son who was in the car ‘wow that looks like Richard Branson’, so I pulled over – and it was him.”
10 years ago, Sir Richard Branson abandoned his car and driver on the M40 on his way to London. Cars jammed the highway after a crash made one section of the road impassable.
The British business magnate was already late to an important meeting, and figured there was no other way he could escape the traffic jam. So, he left his driver with his vehicle and climbed up the embankment, hoping to catch a lift on the other side.
Steve Chandler was passing by with his son in his car when he noticed a man standing by the side of the road. Seeing that the M40 was closed because of the crash, he had taken a back road through a small town.
“The M40 was shut because of a crash and traffic was chaos, but I’m local so was able to navigate the back roads through little villages,” the 52-year-old businessman told the Sun.
He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Branson standing there, apparently hitchhiking.
“I saw a man at the side of the road, and said to my son who was in the car ‘wow that looks like Richard Branson’, so I pulled over – and it was him,” Chandler said.
Once Chandler pulled over, he offered to take Branson as far as he needed to go. However, the tycoon only wanted a lift to Beaconsfield services, where he planned to continue hitchhiking the rest of the way.
“He was so grateful we stopped for him, and was really nice and chatty with my son,” Chandler added.
“No one believes me”
After that day, Chandler told the strange story to friends and family, many of whom didn’t believe him. Ten years later, he decided to tweet Branson on a whim, and see if the philanthropist would respond to confirm that the incident had actually happened. “No one believes me,” he wrote. “Please tell me it was really you.”
To his surprise, Branson responded about two weeks later. He confirmed the story, and offered Chandler a free flight to Miami, and a Caribbean cruise “to say thank you”.
Chandler accepted the gift, and promised to bring his wife along on the cruise. The excursion will take place on Branson’s new Caribbean cruise ship, the Scarlet Lady. Chandler and his wife will fly to Miami with Virgin Airlines in May for the 5-day cruise.
Branson is a well-known figure worldwide, making Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007. He currently owns Necker Island, a private Caribbean isle in the British Virgin Islands. The scenic, 70-acre piece of paradise has recently undergone extensive renovations after damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Branson has a private home there, and has built numerous guest accommodations, which are staffed full time.
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