Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has revealed he is reluctantly looking to sell down his controlling stake in Virgin Atlantic.
Branson founded the airline 27 years ago, but has said the move is necessary as Virgin Atlantic faces growing competition from larger rivals and strengthening aviation alliances.
Of particular concern is a decision by US regulators to allow British Airways and American Airlines to jointly run their transatlantic business, a decision Branson strongly opposed.
“We realised for the long-term stability of Virgin Atlantic we needed to look at an alliance partner, and whether it is purely an alliance or more than an alliance we are completely undecided,” explained Sir Richard.
“My preference would be to keep control of the airline,” he added.
Branson may be forced to consider options for Virgin Atlantic
Following the BA/AA decision last year, Virgin Atlantic appointed Deutsche Bank to review its position in the market.
Speculation of a merger has been growing for some time.
At present Virgin Group has a 51 per cent stake in the carrier, with the remaining 49 per cent held by Singapore Airlines.
“Since the competition authorities in their wisdom have allowed these mega alliances, in order to protect Virgin Atlantic long-term we are now going to have to make sure we have the firepower and strength to survive the next 50 years,” continued Branson.
“Obviously, Virgin Atlantic has been a bit of a baby to me.
“We are obviously very attached to the airline but equally I want to be sure she is still around in 50 years’ time,” he concluded.