Sir Richard Branson is close to finalising a deal to retake control of 5 per cent of the reborn Virgin Australia, according to reports.
The Sydney Morning Herald has even suggested that Sir Richard is pushing for a bigger stake of 10 per cent, which would seemingly include access to the Virgin branding, too.
The news comes alongside a confirmation by the state of Queensland that it will sign 10-year deal to acquire around 2 per cent of the company, which will ensure it retains its base in Brisbane.
The wider Virgin Group held a 10 per cent stake in the airline before it collapsed into administration in April. The next month, investors Bain beat out Cyrus Capital Partners to become the administrator’s preferred bidder, but the decision wasn’t rubber-stamped until a final creditors’ meeting on 4 September.
The AFR first reported on Monday that Sir Richard’s company had agreed a deal to re-acquire 5 per cent deal of the new airline, before The Sydney Morning Herald speculated that the British businessman was hoping for twice that.
Prior to administration, Virgin Australia was paying the larger Virgin group $15 million to use its branding. However, rebranding the airline again would be a costly exercise given the volatile market.
The move was expected after he broke a months-long silence to endorse Bain as the new owners on the eve of the final creditors meeting to rubber-stamp the succession.
“I have confidence in the revival plan for Virgin Australia, and Virgin will be working closely with Bain to rebuild the airline,” Sir Richard said.
“As the founding shareholder, I am extremely proud of what Virgin Australia has achieved over its first 20 years.
“We look forward to helping to create the next important chapter, as Virgin Australia get back to flying and connecting Australia once again.”
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Despite his small stake in the business, Sir Richard was the most vocal investor when the airline collapsed, releasing an Instagram message to staff within hours of the administration being confirmed.
“This is not the end for Virgin Australia and its unique culture,” he said. “Never one to give up, I want to assure all of you, and our competitor, that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.”
The Virgin Group is already involved in a joint venture with Bain, called Virgin Voyages.
Meanwhile, Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said on Monday that the state would sign a deal to take a stake in the new airline.
“It will be a 10-year agreement and that will secure the headquarters and as many jobs as we can in Queensland,” said Treasurer Dick.
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