Branson cedes con­trol of U.K. air­line

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - — Bloomberg News

LON­DON — Bil­lion­aire Richard Branson says he’s ced­ing con­trol of Vir­gin At­lantic Air­ways Ltd. so the car­rier can join what it claims will be “the most sig­nif­i­cant joint ven­ture in avi­a­tion.”

Branson, 67, said in an open let­ter when Air FranceKLM Group an­nounced the pur­chase of 31 per­cent of Vir­gin At­lantic on Thurs­day that the deal, tied to an ex­pan­sive trans-At­lantic al­liance, will al­low the U.K. car­rier to “pros­per and grow” in com­ing decades “as I get a lit­tle older.”

The en­tre­pre­neur will pay a price for that re­as­sur­ance, sur­ren­der­ing own­er­ship to the French com­pany and Delta Air Lines Inc., which holds a 49 per­cent stake, leav­ing him with just 20 per­cent of a com­pany he started with cash from his orig­i­nal record la­bel.

Branson ac­knowl­edged the forces that have seen Vir­gin At­lantic lose ground to Bri­tish Air­ways, which he said has a “stran­gle­hold” on slots at Lon­don’s Heathrow air­port.

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