The Coronavirus crisis also affects large companies. Even billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, finds himself asking for public funding to save his airline. And, in a long open letter to employees, he appeals to the British government.
“Together with the Virgin Atlantic team, we will do everything possible to keep the company alive but we will need the support of the government to succeed, in the face of serious uncertainty about the prospects of the travel sector and not knowing how long the planes will remain on the ground” writes Sir Branson.
The aid “would be in the form of a commercial loan. It would not be “free” money. And the company would pay it back (as easyJet will do with the 600 million loan recently received) ».
According to the British media, the requested loan amounts to 500 million pounds. After an initial refusal by the government, Branson decided to offer his private island as collateral for the loan. The businessman has lived for years on Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands. “I bought it when I was 29, it was an uninhabited island. Over time, we built our family home here and managed the rest as a company, which today employs 175 people. ”
After the first funding application, many criticized Branson. In the letter, the entrepreneur says he has read many comments on his net worth (over $ 4 billion), but “that figure is calculated on the value of Virgin companies around the world before the crisis, it is not cash ready the withdrawal, ”Branson explains. “The problem now is that there is no money coming in, but there is a lot going out. We have already invested 250 million dollars and we will continue to do what we can ».
But that’s not enough. «In 50 years of business, this is the most time we have ever faced… I work day and night to protect as many jobs as possible. We operate in many of the hardest hit industries, airlines, hotels, cruises, leisure, and have over 70,000 people in 35 countries working for Virgin companies. We are doing everything possible to stay afloat ».
Branson also recalls the group’s commitment to emergencies, such as donations to the health system or ventilators and medical devices developed by Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic.