Then there's the time he invited his business partner to dinner and staged a fake burglary of said partner's house, only to earn himself an overnight stay in the slammer when his guest left the dinner early and called the police before Branson had time to come clean. But the top spot on his list of achievements goes hands-down to the time he convinced London that it was being visited by aliens.
On March 31, 1989, the space-obsessed Branson and a co-pilot took off in a hot air balloon designed to look like a flying saucer, otherworldly flashing lights and all. Their plan was to take a short flight and land in Hyde Park as a promotional stunt, but uncooperative winds transformed their short flight into a War of the Worlds-style public panic. As they hovered over highway M25 the traffic stopped cold, with scores of panicked motorists bailing from their cars to ring the local constabulary from emergency roadside phones. One woman was so taken aback by the "invasion" that she stood in front of the window of her apartment describing the slow-moving craft to a radio station while completely forgetting that she was nude.