Coronavirus: Founder Richard Branson sells $41 million of Virgin Galatic shares

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Richard Branson’s Vieco 10 investment company offloaded about 2 percent of its stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. last week as the billionaire looks to support his broader business empire.

Vieco 10 sold 2.6 million shares in the space-travel firm for $41 million, according to a regulatory filing Monday. Branson’s Virgin Group owns 81 percent of Vieco 10, with the balance held by Aabar Space, an Abu Dhabi investment company. Vieco 10 still owns about 112 million shares of Virgin Galactic and has previously said it could sell up to 25 million.

Branson already has pledged a Caribbean island and at least $250 million as the coronavirus pandemic weighs heavily on his leisure and travel assets. His Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. pitched to about a dozen potential investors last week in a video presentation as the UK government drags its heels over an emergency bailout. Meantime, investors are bidding for the Virgin Australia airline, which fell into administration last month.

The British entrepreneur has built up a sprawling collection of businesses with annual revenues exceeding $20 billion. But his practice of plunging most of the profits back into the ventures has left him scrambling for cash as governments balk at bailing out a billionaire famous for his flamboyant publicity stunts.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Group declined to comment.

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