Sir Richard Branson has been linked to two of the four shortlisted bids for Virgin Australia, according to separate newspaper rumours.
Administrator Deloitte is reported to have whittled down indicative offers to those from private equity firm BGH Capital, US aviation company Indigo Partners, New York investors Cyrus Capital Partners and Boston investment company Bain Capital.
The Australian reports that Bain will link up with Sir Richard’s Virgin Group if it makes it to the final two; while The AFR suggests it could in fact be Cyrus Capital Partners, given it was one of the original backers of Virgin America.
Deloitte has so far refused to reveal the shortlist, but said in a statement the candidates were “well funded and possessing deep aviation experience”.
Friday was deadline day for indicative bids, though the final deadline for interest is not until 12 June.
The state of Queensland is not expected to show its hand until later on.
However, the potential re-emergence of Sir Richard and his Virgin brand was the big talking point of revelations to emerge on Monday afternoon.
Cyrus Capital is based in the US but has a presence in Europe. It led a consortium that owned the ill-fated Flybe, Europe’s biggest regional carrier that became the first major casualty of the coronavirus crisis.
The AFR said the Virgin Group was already in that consortium, and plans were that a new airline would be branded ‘Virgin Connect’. In 2005, Cyrus became an investor in Virgin America, which was eventually sold to Alaska Airlines in 2016 for $2.6 billion.
However, surprisingly, The Australian speculated that Virgin could instead be quietly working with Bain Capital, given that they have a joint venture in the cruise industry with Virgin Voyages.
It has also emerged previous frontrunners InterGlobe Enterprises and Brookfield didn’t make the shortlist, with the latter allegedly angry at Deloitte for overseeing an “overly complicated” process.
Lead administrator Vaughan Strawbridge said, “The parties have also worked constructively with the administration process and put forward credible indicative bids. Importantly, each has a plan for the business which can secure the future for thousands of Virgin Australia employees.
“We received more interest than anticipated from parties who are eager to be a part of the future of Virgin Australia.”
On Friday, Deloitte revealed nearly 20 interested parties had been granted access to the data room and eight to a “Virgin 2.0 business plan”.
Earlier, Australian Aviation reported that Velocity Frequent Flyer members will be able to redeem their points on domestic flights from 1 September, after previously freezing the service when Virgin Australia entered administration.
The business, which is separate to the airline, said in a statement it was “hopeful” coronavirus travel restrictions and border closure would be lifted in July, in line with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s three-step lockdown exit plan unveiled last week.