Sir Richard Branson has announced plans to sell 25 million shares in Virgin Galactic Holdings, to raise around $500 million to support other areas of the Virgin Group business impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement to the New York Stock Exchange, the group said “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 bulk of this is expected to go to Virgin Atlantic, which last week said it would axe 3,000 jobs and close its operations at Gatwick airport.
Other travel subsidiaries within the Virgin Group include Virgin Hotels – which recently filed a lawsuit against the owner of its San Francisco property – and Virgin Voyages, a cruise line venture which had been due to begin service this year.
Virgin Atlantic has been attempting to secure a bailout from the UK government to help see it through the current crisis, but Branson has received criticism for seeking a state bailout with a personal fortune estimated at around $4.5 billion.
Last month Branson committed $250 million in funding for the airline, and wrote an open letter to Virgin Group staff, in which he said that ““The challenge right now is that there is no money coming in and lots going out”.