email a friend iconprinter friendly iconLifetime Achievement: Sir Richard Branson + Will Steger
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The foundation's goals are ambitious. Projects like this one, called Global Warming 101, seek to educate people about a worldwide environmental crisis at a moment when they're growing more detached from their local environments. "I first started coming up to the Arctic in the 1960s as a teenager," Steger told me in Clyde River. "I would arrive at a camp in my kayak, and most of the men I would meet had considerable Arctic experience. I would sit up all night listening to tales of adventure." Thirty years later when I joined Steger at a gold mine deep in the Northwest Territories, we met men and women who had never been more than a hundred meters from camp. "To me that represents the typical way of life for most Westerners today," Steger continued. "We're losing touch."

The Quluaq school's community center is packed. Hanging out here—at the gym, hockey rink, and Ping-Pong tables—is among the only forms of entertainment in this remote, cold place. Benches filled with elders and young mothers and their babies line the walls. The floor is chaotic with running, screaming kids and teens.

A young Inuit woman greets me excitedly. "Welcome to Clyde River!" she says, with a big smile. Another woman approaches and greets me, then another. What a friendly place, I'm thinking.

Then smaller kids start coming up, a little bolder. One introduces himself as "Little Man," known around town as the best hip-hop dancer. "What's your name?" he asks. "Are you the billionaire?"

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (SRB to the press, Ricky to his mother) arrives the next day via chartered jet from Chicago, where he'd flown on the inaugural Virgin Atlantic flight between London Heathrow Airport and O'Hare. His 85-year-old mother and 89-year-old father had accompanied him. His friend and personal photographer of 20 years, Thierry Boccon-Gibod, has come north to document the entrepreneur's first day on the ice. Suffering a badly sprained arm from flipping an ATV on a recent holiday in Mallorca, where he owns a small luxury hotel, Branson can barely shake hands, extending a pinkie instead. "So sorry," he says. "I know it looks sooo British, doesn't it?"

His reputation precedes him: part Warren Buffett, part P.T. Barnum, ever ready for a good time and the opportunity to make a spectacle of himself if it aids his cause. Today his Virgin empire of more than 200 loosely connected companies includes air and train lines, mobile phone and health care networks, a soda pop brand, music and bridal shops, nightclubs, and a fashion label. He employs 55,000 people, doesn't drive, and often travels carrying only a toothbrush. He now runs Virgin from his sunny compound on Necker Island, which he bought as a 22-year-old record company owner and now shares with wife Joan, daughter Holly, and Sam. When the family's away he rents it out for $46,000 a night.

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