Branson cedes control of U.K. airline
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.