Steve Ridgway CBE

Steve Ridgway CBE

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Former CEO, Virgin Atlantic

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CEO of Virgin Atlantic for over a decade, Steve oversaw the huge expansion of what has become one of the world’s biggest and most respected airlines. Widely admired for their service culture, marketing and innovation, Steve offers an insight into the Virgin brand and strategy. After dinner, Steve reveals the boardroom secrets of Richard Branson and what it was like taking charge of the Virgin Challenger Blue Riband yacht team.


Steve Ridgway was CEO of Virgin Atlantic for over a decade. In that time he oversaw the company build on its initial success and expand exponentially from a fleet of just two 747s to over 40 long-haul aircraft, carrying over six million passengers on routes across Europe, Asia and the world. The company became one of the best known in the world, winning awards for service, innovation and business.

Joining the company just a few years after Richard Branson started it, Steve was soon appointed MD of Virgin Freeway, the company’s frequent flier business. He moved to the board as Executive Director of Customer Services at Virgin Atlantic before becoming MD and was then appointed CEO. Steve became a leading voice in the airline industry and his company developed an enviable reputation for service, marketing and innovation. Virgin became the UK’s second largest long-haul carrier and an international brand.

Steve’s career has also taken in sales for Cavenham Foods, teaching, working for a power boat builders and an F1 constructor, and he now co-owns a Cornish hotel with his brother.

In speeches Steve examines the Virgin brand and business; how it’s grown, its core values, its view of the business landscape, consumers and strategy. He talks about leadership and leadership style, both his own and that of Sir Richard. His experience of risk and crisis management takes in incidents like 9/11. He also looks at Virgin’s impressive customer service reputation, its work with partners and other businesses it has acquired, and its social and environmental responsibilities.

After dinner, Steve offers an insight into the sometimes surprisingly unconventional Virgin world, his time captaining the two Virgin Challenger yachts in the Blue Riband Challenge, and what working with Richard Branson is really like.

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JLA Speakers Breakfast - March 2014