Richard Branson admitted this is the most challenging time Virgin has ever faced.
As Richard Branson’s constellation of companies operate in some of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus containment policies, he admitted to employees through an open letter that “over the five decades I have been in business, this is the most challenging time we have ever faced.”
The letter, which was published just hours after reports Virgin Australia will go into voluntary administration after failing to find a way to keep the company afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, was addressed to the hundreds of thousands of people who have worked with Virgin over the years. Branson claimed “much has been said about me and our brand” and that it why it was “important for you all to know the actual facts”. “The challenge right now,” he continues, “is that there is no money coming in and lots going out (…) It is hard to find the words to convey what a devastating impact this pandemic continues to have on so many communities, businesses and people around the world. From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown.” Branson continued to say he was “working day and night to look after our people and protect as many jobs as possible”, despite working in one of the “hardest hit sectors, including aviation, leisure, hotels and cruises.” “We’re doing all we can to keep those businesses afloat and I am so thankful to all of you who have continued to work so hard in these difficult times.”
He ended by saying “it really breaks my heart to see the impact this pandemic is having across people’s lives and businesses around the world.
A desperate staff
Desperation lingers in the Virgin environment.
A desperate Branson asked the U.K. government for a loan to keep his Virgin Atlantic airline afloat stressing he is not looking for a handout, but rather a commercial loan which will be paid back in full at a later date. Branson promised he’d pay back any government aid and has already promised to pour $250 million of his own money into Virgin Group. Staff of the company, on the other hand, has begged the government to step in. Virgin Australia currently employs around 10,000 people, and indirectly supports a further 6,000 jobs. The future of these employees remains in limbo.
In the letter, Branson also addressed criticism about his residence in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven that’s also home to Morgan Freeman and Google co-founder Larry Page, per Pedestrian. The comment comes as the governments of Denmark and Poland refuse to bail out companies linked to tax havens.
“Joan and I did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island, which I bought when I was 29 years old, as an uninhabited island on the edges of the BVI,” he wrote.