Remembering Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett performing at the 2013 Necker Cup
Necker Cup
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 4 September 2023

I was saddened to hear of Jimmy Buffett’s passing. He was a wonderful entertainer, a smart businessperson, a good man – and a pretty decent tennis player.

Jimmy was always ready with a kind word, a smile and a funny story. So I wanted to share just one memory of him, which happened during the second Necker Cup a decade ago.

Richard Branson and Jimmy Buffett at the 2013 Necker Cup
Necker Cup

The tournament was going strong when Jimmy decided to challenge me to a special exhibition match, with the loser donating a big sum to charity.

‘Fine,’ I told him. ‘Plus, if I win, you have to play a free concert here tonight. If you win, we’ll send you to space.’

Jimmy snapped up my offer. ‘One thing,’ he added. ‘We’re playing doubles, and I’m picking my own partner.’ What I didn’t know was he had already hit up Mike Bryan as his partner – the number one doubles player in the world.

I took a walk, worrying how I was going to compete, when I spotted Rafa Nadal strolling in my direction along the beach. Once I convinced the then-world number one singles player to join my team, I fancied my chances a bit more.

The match was a classic, with Boris Becker on compering duties and Jimmy and I doing our best to keep pace with Bryan and Rafa. Like all great tennis battles, it all came down to the final game.

Richard Branson and Rafa Nadal at the 2013 Necker Cup
Necker Cup

The ball dropped to my left, and I saw Jimmy dropping off, expecting a groundstroke. At the last moment, I tried a tricky backhand volleyed drop shot, which somehow dropped against the line to win the match.

Jimmy was very gracious in defeat, and soon swapped his racquet for his guitar. The music was good that night!

Sending best wishes to all who knew and loved Jimmy, and may it always be Five O'Clock Somewhere.