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British billionaire and founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson has revealed plans to put Necker Island up as collateral to secure a £500 million loan bailout from the United Kingdom government.
Sir Branson made the announcement on his Virgin Atlantic website on Monday April 20, after the UK Treasury rejected the initial loan request from Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic.
Necker, which is an outer island of the BVI that Branson purchased back in 1979 is luxury staycation destination which employs 175 persons.
“As with other Virgin assets, our team will raise as much money against the island as possible to save as many jobs as possible around the group,” Sir Branson said.
According to international media reports, Virgin Atlantic’s request for the £500 million loan was first rejected after the UK Treasury concluded that the airline had not exhausted all other options to raise monies before seeking state aid.
Virgin Atlantic, as with many other companies in the world, have been impacted severely by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the request, Sir Branson received heavy criticism and questions on whether he qualified for a UK government bailout considering his £4.7 billion net-worth. Branson was also accused of not paying taxes in the UK for over 14 years since moving to the BVI.
“I’ve seen lots of comments about my net worth – but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis; not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw,” Sir Branson stated.
He continued: “Over the years significant profits have never been taken out of the Virgin Group, instead they have been reinvested in building businesses that create value and opportunities. The challenge right now is that there is no money coming in and lots going out.”
Not a handout, help needed
Sir Branson said it is critical to receive the bailout loan from the UK government to keep his airline going in these uncertain times.
“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 won’t be any competition left and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be lost, along with critical connectivity and huge economic value,” he said.
He added: “This would be in the form of a commercial loan – it wouldn’t be free money and the airline would pay it back (as easyJet will do for the £600m loan the government recently gave them).”
Most challenging time in over 5 decades
In late March, the business tycoon had committed $250 million to his Virgin Group of companies to help their businesses and protect the loss of jobs.
In over 50 years of business, Branson described this current period as “the most challenging time” his companies have ever faced.
“It is hard to find the words to convey what a devastating impact this pandemic continues to have on so many communities, businesses and people around the world. From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown,” he stated.
According to Branson, more than 70,000 persons across 35 countries are employed with the Virgin Group of companies and include sectors heavily impacted by COVID-19, including aviation, leisure, hotels and cruises.