(BBC) – Sir Richard Branson has pledged his luxury island resort as collateral to help get a UK government bailout of his stricken airline Virgin Atlantic.
The billionaire Virgin Group boss said in an open letter to staff he was not asking for a handout, but a commercial loan, believed to be £500m.
The airline’s survival was in doubt, and his Necker Island home in the Caribbean could be mortgaged, he said.
It comes as Virgin Group’s airline in Australia enters administration.
Both airlines have been hit hard by the global coronavirus lockdown, and Sir Richard has appealed to governments in both countries for help.
However, he has been criticised for appealing for taxpayer aid rather than drawing on his huge wealth. Sir Richard’s fortune is thought to be well over £4bn. The large US airline Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic.
Sir Richard said in his letter to staff: “Many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it.” The crisis facing airlines, and the staff they employ, was “unprecedented,” he said.
Despite his wealth, this did not mean he had “cash in a bank account ready to withdraw”. And he hit back at criticism that he was a tax exile who did not deserve help, saying he and his wife “did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island”.
He said Necker would be offered as security for any loans. “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 Richard said.