Sir Richard Branson: ‘I thought we were going to lose everything’

Sir Richard Branson BBC interview
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Sir Richard Branson: ‘I thought we were going to lose everything’

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has said he thought he was going to lose everything during the pandemic.

Speaking in a BBC interview, the entrepreneur said he found the media backlash ‘painful’ after his group, which includes an airline, hotels, cruise line and health clubs, asked for a government loan.

He said he was criticised for asking for taxpayer support for Virgin Atlantic when he has so much personal wealth and a home on a Caribbean island.

In the end, the Government refused and Sir Richard personally lost around £1.5 billion.

He said the struggle to maintain his business left him ‘a little depressed’ for a couple of months.

“We had 50, 60 planes all on the ground, and the health clubs all closed, the hotels all closed. And the worst [case] would have been 60,000 people out on the streets,” he said.

The financial support he’d called for was ‘not gifts from government, but underwriting loans so the cost to the airline… was not prohibitive’, he said.

When his request for a reported £500m was rejected, the Virgin Group succeeded in pulling off a private rescue deal that saw it investing £200m into the airline and an additional £1bn was stumped up by investors and creditors.

“There was a time when I thought we were going to lose everything,” Sir Richard said. “We sold shares in companies that were public and that was one way we managed to find money.”

Sir Richard Branson: Amol Rajan Interviews is on BBC iPlayer

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