Richard Branson voted top boss of the past 50 years

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has been named the most admired business leader over the past five decades, according to a Sunday Times FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 poll.

The survey sought the opinions of chairmen, CEOs, CFOs, non-executive directors, lawyers, accountants and headhunters.

Branson beat Sir James Dyson – creator of Dyson vacuum cleaner – Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco and WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell to take the top spot.

Dominic O'Connell, business editor of The Sunday Times, said the poll is an authentic insider's view on who has made the biggest impact on British business over the past five decades.

“We asked business leaders to rate their peers - and Branson came out on top by a good margin. He has his critics, but this is a tribute to his longevity, and his impact across a big number of industries."

O'Connell added: "Our highest-rated businesspeople included Sir James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame, Sir Ernest Harrison, the man who brought us the mobile phone, and Arnold Weinstock, the former boss of GEC.”

The poll, published in today’s Sunday Times, comes a week ahead of the newspaper's business section's 50th anniversary.

Earlier this week, Branson and his daughter Holly spearheaded LinkedIn's 'Bring In Your Parents Day' campaign ahead of the event on 6 November which encourages businesses to allow employees to bring their parents to work for the day.

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