His arrival in Auckland in 2007 for the low-key launch party of his airline Pacific Blue at a seedy Viaduct bar barely heralded much fanfare - despite arriving rather precariously clinging atop a yacht's mast.
Tonight, however, Sir Richard Branson's presence at a glittering charity gala dinner at Auckland's new Viaduct Events Centre has resulted in a sold-out event with a waiting list of A-listers hoping for a ticket.
Even society queen Gilda Kirkpatrick hasn't been able to get her manicured mitts on a pair for herself and octogenarian hubby James.
With the Rugby World Cup final three days away, the Branson dinner - in aid of Outward Bound and its 50th anniversary - has become the hottest party of the tournament. It seems anyone who's anyone wants to be like Cinders and go to the ball.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Rachel Hunter will be there. As will Tiger Woods' former caddy Steve Williams. Susan Wood will be showing off her new rich-lister beau Craig Heatley, and Chris Liddell and his new bride Renee Harbers will be making an appearance too.
Liddell, the former general manager of Microsoft and CFO of General Motors, who resigned earlier this year, is understood to be spending more time in New Zealand with his American spouse who is an amateur photographer and committed philanthropist.
The pair were snapped at a conservation ball at Central Park Zoo in June where they co-chaired the gala alongside some of the crème of New York society, like the Schiffs and the Tischs.
But all eyes will be on Branson's glamorous 29-year-old daughter Holly who is rumoured to be attending with her shipbroker beau Fred Andrews and other members of the Branson family.
The family are jetting in by private plane today and are staying for the World Cup final on Sunday. Some are residing at exclusive Mollies Hotel for a few days while others are at another undisclosed location. "They will be taking part in a variety of leisure activities on Friday," an inside source said, but wouldn't stipulate further.
* For all the juicy goss and glamorous piccies from tonight's gala dinner check out my column in the Herald on Sunday.
- Herald online