'Love of people' drives Branson

KUALA LUMPUR - It was a rousing end to the first day of the Global Transformation Forum 2017 as business magnate Richard Branson fielded questions and selfie requests.

The main hall of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre was crowded by those who were eager to hear the larger-than-life founder of Virgin Group speak.

His session was moderated by CNN anchor Richard Quest.

At one point, photographs of Branson in a stewardess uniform were screened behind them.

They were taken when he lost a bet to AirAsia Group founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes over which one of their Formula One racing teams would cross the line first in their debut season in 2010.

The crowd laughed and clapped.

"I was hoping to see him (Fernandes) in a stewardess outfit on our plane," Branson said, smiling.

He spoke of his successes and failures, including the crash of a Virgin Galactic spacecraft in 2014 which killed a pilot.

He said about 800 people signed up to be taken on as passengers, admitting that the crash was a "massive setback".

However, he said the spacecraft would be back in space by the end of the year.

Later, someone in the front seat told Branson that he was one of those who had signed up to go to space.

"When can I go into space?" he asked.

Branson merely smiled.

One man asked Branson what kept him going.

He replied that this was due to his "love of people" and seeing life as a long learning process.

He spoke about issues he felt strongly about.

Branson said he was saddened by moves not to acknowledge or welcome the gay community.

He also spoke against US president Donald Trump, adding that he had dinner with the man a few years ago.

"He (Trump) told me there were five people who hadn't helped him when he was bankrupt and how he was going to spend the rest of his life trying to destroy those five people," he said, calling Trump a "very sad individual."

After the session, Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala took to the stage for a selfie with Branson.

But before that, a pair of scissors suddenly appeared in Branson's hand and he went on to snip Idris' and Quest's ties.

"Have you ever worn a tie?" Quest asked while the crowd cheered.

"No," Branson replied.

The Global Transformation Forum 2017 ends today with speakers such as Olympic champion Usain Bolt and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.