In December, he had a change of heart about that 220 million-pound ($274 million) deal, and opted to keep his shareholding in the company he founded at 51%. America's Delta Air Lines Inc. owns the other half.
Branson has referred to the transatlantic carrier as "one of my children". But with most of the Virgin Atlantic fleet now grounded because of the coronavirus restrictions, he probably wishes he'd taken Air France's money. The company is now consuming cash at a rapid clip.
To help alleviate a financial crunch, Virgin Atlantic is calling on Boris Johnson's British government to provide 500 million pounds of government-backed loans and credit guarantees, so that credit card processors don't hold onto its cash. Airbus SE and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which respectively sold planes and engines to Virgin Atlantic, have also been lobbying the U.K. on Virgin Atlantic's behalf, the Financial Times reported.
It's hard to fathom why Johnson would throw Virgin Atlantic a lifeline before its American and British Virgin Islands domiciled shareholders have reached deeper into their own pockets. Branson himself is worth $5.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.