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Richard Branson unveils succession plan to give Virgin Atlantic to his kids



Sir Richard Branson may be well past retirement age at 73 years old, but the risk-loving entrepreneur shows no sign of slowing down.

Even still, the Virgin Group CEO appears to be getting his affairs in order to ensure his crown jewel, Virgin Atlantic, stays in the family long after he’s gone.

In an interview with The Times of London, 73-year-old Branson indicated he is one of several aging CEOs undergoing succession planning as part of the multitrillion-dollar wealth transfer set to occur over the next 30 years.

As part of that transfer, Branson wants to hand the keys of his airline to his 42-year-old daughter Holly and his 39-year-old son Sam.

“I plan to keep it in the family and they plan to keep it in the family,” Branson told The Times.

Virgin Atlantic is 51% owned by the Virgin Group, Branson’s parent organization, which controls its transport and media ventures. Delta Airlines owns the remaining shares.

Holly is Virgin Group’s chief purpose and vision officer, while Sam is an informal advisor to his dad’s organization. Shai Weiss, a long-time Virgin Group employee, took over as Virgin Atlantic’s CEO in 2019.

Over the years the question of who will take the reins of Branson’s multibillion-dollar corporate empire has slowly crept into his interview talking points.

“We have serious discussions as a family about how the company can transform hopefully thousands of people’s lives in the years to come and hopefully in the centuries to come,” he told the BBC in 2023.

Virgin Atlantic, which boasts a 41-jet fleet, brought in record revenues of £3.1 billion ($3.9 billion) in 2023, driving the airline to £352 million ($447 million) in profits. 

The airline has overcome a few bumps before landing in a more comfortable financial spot, including needing a bailout in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As well as casting a new eye over his legacy, Branson has become more circumspect about his wealth as he edges closer to retirement. 

The billionaire recently questioned the use of wealth as a barometer of success.

Speaking to CNBC Make It in May, the septuagenarian said “Maybe in America, ‘billionaire’ is a sign of success, but that rankles me,” adding it would be sad if people were living life for the paycheck.

“Paying the bills at the end of the year is important, but what entrepreneurs are doing all over the world today—and the only reason they’re succeeding—is that they’re making a difference in other people’s lives,” Branson said. “And that’s all that really matters.”

However, Branson will surely have noticed a sharp decline to his net worth in recent years, particularly if it means the size of the pot he leaves for his offspring is shrinking.

According to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, Branson’s net worth last year fell back to levels last seen in 2000, dipping to £2.4 billion ($3 billion).

Some of Branson’s companies, including Virgin Galactic, have plummeted in value, while companies backed by Branson that went public via a SPAC have also declined in worth. In all, his net worth has tumbled by more than half since 2021.

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