$300 Million Stake Sold By Richard Branson in Virgin Galactic

Ichard Branson sold about $300 million in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. stock, tapping his biggest listed asset again to prop up his business empire during the pandemic.

The billionaire offloaded almost 10.5 million shares — about 4% of the space-travel company — through a company he controls, leaving him with an 18% stake, according to a regulatory filing.

The proceeds will support Branson’s travel and leisure businesses, as well as help develop new and existing ventures, a Virgin Group representative said. Branson, 71, remains Virgin Galactic’s biggest shareholder. The company’s shares fell 4.3% to $24.82 at 5:58 a.m. in early New York trading.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., the airline majority owned by Branson’s group, is now considering a public offering in London after receiving a 1.2 billion-pound (1.7 billion) rescue package last year that included about 200 million pounds from Branson.

Virgin Galactic is planning to debut tourism trips next year, adding space travel to Branson’s track record that ranges from record labels to soft drinks. The Virgin brand he founded as a mail-order retailer in 1970 has since become linked to more than 40 businesses worldwide, including British bank Virgin Money UK Plc. Branson has a net worth of about $6.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic’s stock has tumbled about 56% from a February peak, partly due to the company planning a dilutive capital raise. Still, the shares have more than doubled since the firm began trading publicly after merging in 2019 with a special purpose acquisition company set up by Chamath Palihapitiya.