Richard Branson sold an additional $ 300 million ($ 421 million) of Virgin Galactic shares, again tapping his largest listed asset to support a business empire that suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
The billionaire landed 15.6 million shares – about 6% of the space travel company – through a company he controls, leaving him an 11.9% stake, according to a regulatory filing. The move brings its total Virgin Galactic sales to over $ 1 billion ($ 1.4 billion) since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The proceeds from the sale will support Branson’s travel and leisure activities, as well as the development of new and existing businesses, a representative from the Virgin Group said. The 71-year-old billionaire remains Virgin Galactic’s largest shareholder with a stake worth nearly $ 600 million, based on his closing share price on Monday.
The Virgin Branson brand founded as a mail order retailer in 1970 has since become linked to more than 40 companies around the world – from record labels to soft drinks and the British bank Virgin Money UK.
Virgin Galactic shares have fallen 20% this year, in part because of delays in the start of its commercial flights. Still, shares have risen by more than 60% since the company started going public after it merged in 2019 with a special purpose acquisition company set up by Chamath Palihapitiya, its current chairman. Palihapitiya, which is another big holder of the space travel company, sold $ 213 million of Virgin Galactic shares in March.
Richard Branson sold $ 300 million in shares in August and $ 150 million four months earlier after raising more than $ 300 million in the first half of 2020 to help other units in the Virgin Group weather the fallout. COVID-19 crisis. He has a net worth of around $ 6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Virgin Atlantic Airways – the company most responsible for building its global brand – was saved from the brink of collapse last year with a £ 1.2bn ($ 2.1bn) package that included around £ 200million from Branson.
Virgin Galactic, based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, plans to be transport paying passengers in space three times a month in 2023.