Richard Branson has pledged to inject $250m to help his Virgin businesses “in their fight for survival”.
He said the funds would be injected “over the next weeks and months” to protect the range of companies and save jobs, adding: “That is likely just the start.”
Branson wrote in a blog post on Sunday (22 March) the chances of securing a widespread economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic would “depend critically upon governments around the world” implementing support programmes.
“This is the most significant crisis the world has experienced in my lifetime,” he said.
More than 70,000 people across 35 countries work in Virgin companies, all of which “have been deeply affected by the pandemic in different ways”, Branson described – especially its travel and leisure businesses.
“Because many of our businesses are in industries like travel, leisure and wellness, they are in a massive battle to survive and save jobs.
“Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped.
“We are supporting our people and our businesses in their fight for survival in numerous ways. We are providing a quarter of billion dollars over the next weeks and months to protect them and save jobs – that is likely just the start.
“The chances of securing widespread economic recovery will depend critically upon governments around the world successfully mobilising various newly announced support programmes, which in these unique circumstances will be essential to protect people’s livelihoods.
”We are also listening to our team members around the world to see what other things we can do to support them, their families and communities, and will be rolling out a series of programmes over the coming months.”
Branson recalled the period following 9/11, “when all airlines and travel companies took extremely painful decisions to make redundancies in order to keep businesses afloat and the dramatic impact it had on people then”.
“We are doing all we can to stop that happening now,” Branson said, describing Virgin Atlantic’s “incredible employees” who “virtually unanimously” took voluntary unpaid leave for eight weeks out of the next six-and-a-half months.
“Our employees are united as one behind this plan, and our shareholders and partners have respected their vision, so we can hopefully emerge and thrive with as many jobs as possible intact once the situation stabilises.”
Branson said the people within Virgin “will always be my number one priority.
“It is their future job security and their wellbeing that I am 100% focusing on in these frightening and unprecedented times. We’ve prided ourselves on looking after those working for Virgin for the past 50 years; we’ve always put our employees first and always will.
“I am an optimist. I believe in the power of dedicated people working together to overcome challenges. And I believe that the Virgin family, working with communities around the world, will get through this toughest of times.”