Billionaire Richard Branson advocates for government support for his airlines and has offered his private island in the Caribbean as collateral for loans.
In an open letter to Virgin Group employees on Monday, Branson told his two airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia AU: VAH
, need help to continue operating following coronavirus-related shutdowns around the world.
““In the five decades that I have been in business, this is the most difficult time we have ever faced.”“
“We will do all we can to keep the airline in operation, but we will need the support of the government to do this in the face of the serious uncertainty surrounding travel today and without knowing how long the planes will be down,” he said. Branson said, referring to a business loan, and noting that his airlines aren’t the only ones in need of help.
“The reality of this unprecedented crisis is that many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it. Without it, there will be no more competition and hundreds of thousands of additional jobs will be lost, along with critical connectivity and enormous economic value. Branson said without its airlines, British Airways, which is owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group IAG,
, and the Australian Qantas QAN,
would have virtual monopolies in their home country, harming consumers.
Branson, who has an estimated net worth of $ 5.86 billion, according to Bloomberg News, said he did not have the cash to bail out his airlines on his own, saying his wealth “is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, and not as cash to a bank account ready to be withdrawn. “He said Virgin had already committed $ 250 million to consolidate its business amid the pandemic, and that it had allocated money from the Virgin Group and his personal fortune to try to preserve as many jobs as possible.
“The challenge right now is that there is no money coming in and a lot going out,” he wrote.
Last month, Virgin Australia reportedly asked the Australian government a loan of $ 1.4 billion. And the Financial Times reported Last week Virgin Atlantic was asked to resubmit its £ 500million loan application, which apparently failed to impress the UK government.
Branson said he would offer his most prized possession, Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, as loan collateral. “As with the other assets of Virgin, our team will raise as much money as possible against the island to save as many jobs as possible around the group.”
In addition to being his family home, 74-acre Necker Island, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017, is a luxury resort that employs 175 people.
Virgin Group, which in addition to the airlines includes Virgin Galactic SPCE,
, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Records and Virgin Care, among many other units, employ more than 70,000 people in 35 countries.