Most people assumed Richard Branson was too big to fail, but that was before Covid-19. The billionaire’s sprawling business empire has been decimated by the unrelenting pandemic that has savaged the industries in which Virgin competes (airlines, hotels and cruises). Of course, the determined Brit is far from giving up. He’s just cashed in more than $41 million of Virgin Galactic shares to help his struggling travel and leisure ventures.
According to a regulatory filing released Monday, Vieco 10, an investment company owned by Branson’s Virgin Group, dumped just shy of 2.6 million Virgin Galactic stock between May 14 and May 15. And this drastic offloading is only just the beginning. The company is planning to sell up to 25 million of Virgin Galactic shares to keep his struggling businesses afloat.
“Virgin intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of Covid-19,” the company said in a statement.
While the cashed-in stake equates to roughly 2 percent of Virgin Galactic, Branson’s investment firm still holds more than 112 million shares. Though since the May 11 announcement, shares have been steadily dropping and are sitting at $14.86 as of press time.
Since Virgin investment group is basically a tangled web of roughly 400 different operations, some of which are managed via offshore trusts and overseas holding companies, it’s difficult to get a complete picture of Branson’s finances. Needless to say, the billionaire has been working hard to keep his business in the green. So far, he has pumped around $250 million into Virgin Group companies in response to the pandemic.
Plus, back in April, he offered his Necker Island estate in the Caribbean as collateral to save Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia from collapse. He has also sought a commercial loan from the UK government, even though he does not pay UK income tax because his primary residence is on the island.
One thing’s for certain, Branson isn’t going down without a fight.