Virgin Orbit bidders deadline day as it emerges Branson lost £1.8bn in year | UK | News

’s fortune has plunged by more than 40 percent in a year after the billionaire entrepreneur revealed his Virgin empire took a massive financial hit during the pandemic. The British entrepreneur slipped down the annual Sunday Times Rich List following his satellite launch company, , going bankrupt after its unsuccessful mission to put satellites into orbit following its launch from in January.

Today (Friday) marks the deadline for bidders seeking to acquire the company, with the manufacturer of the world’s biggest aircraft understood to have submitted an offer.

Sir Richard’s wealth plummeted by £1.79 billion since last year, the list revealed.

It marks a bigger decline in his net worth than the tycoon indicated during an interview with the BBC earlier this month.

He told the BBC‘s Amol Rajan that the pandemic “cost us a big percentage of our net worth, maybe £1.5 billion”.

He admitted: “There was a time where it really looked like we were going to lose everything.”

The Sunday Times last year estimated Sir Richard and his family were worth about £4.2 billion, placing him 44th on the list.

The businessman, who lives on a private island in the Caribbean, featured 77th on the list this year with a net worth of £2.41 billion.

Virgin Group, which includes airline Virgin Atlantic, gym group Virgin Active and bank Virgin Money, was clobbered when Covid struck in early 2020.

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Sir Richard faced criticism when he asked for a commercial loan from the Government at the height of the virus in a bid to keep his airline afloat.

He insisted he did not have billions in “cash in a bank account ready to withdraw” to save the business and tens of thousands of staff.

Virgin Atlantic eventually secured a £1.2 billion bailout involving only private funds, including £200 million from the wider Virgin Group.

The troubles continued for his empire with Virgin Orbit filing for bankruptcy earlier this month and axing 675 jobs – about 85 percent of its workforce.

It came after a rocket failed to complete the first satellite launch from UK soil in January.

Yesterday The Daily Telegraph said Stratolaunch, which has manufactured a plane with vast 385ft wingspan designed to carry rockets to high altitude, has made a $17m (£13.6m) offer for the assets of the failed rocket company.

These include Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit’s customised 747 jet, which was used during the attempt to launch the satellites on January 9.

Speaking to the Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday, Science Minister George Freeman stressed there was no prospect of the UK Government buying the company.

He told MPs he and his colleagues had “taken a close interest” in Virgin Orbit, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States on April 4.

However, he added: “We’re not sitting here thinking of making a major acquisition and acquiring and developing a UK. sovereign launch capability.”


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