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Business News

Virgin Atlantic hunts new chairman as London listing plan takes flight


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Virgin Atlantic Airways has launched a search to replace its veteran chairman as it finalises plans for a stock market debut galvanised by the imminent resumption of its most profitable route.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Richard Branson’s flagship company is working with advisers from the headhunting firm Korn Ferry to identify a slate of independent directors, including one who can take over from Peter Norris.

Mr Norris, a long-standing colleague of Sir Richard, has chaired Virgin Group since 2009 and Virgin Atlantic for nearly a decade.

Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson
Image: Virgin Atlantic is majority-owned by Sir Richard’s Virgin Group, which holds a 51% stake

Virgin Atlantic is said to be preparing to find an independent chairman as part of efforts to ensure that a robust corporate governance framework is in place if it does pursue an initial public offering (IPO) in London.

Sky News revealed in August that City investors were being consulted on the surprise flotation, which will come within two years of Virgin Atlantic being forced to put insolvency practitioners on standby as the pandemic decimated its finances.

The lifting of the US ban on European visitors, which is expected to take place next month, has revived booking volumes for Virgin Atlantic and other transatlantic carriers.

Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic landed a fresh £160m capital injection, with an IPO expected to raise hundreds of millions of pounds of new capital for the airline.

More on Virgin Atlantic

Peter Norris
Image: Peter Norris has chaired Virgin Atlantic for nearly a decade

An IPO, which is now being earmarked for next spring, would mark the first time since Virgin Atlantic’s launch in 1984 that it has sold shares to the public – and would almost certainly see Sir Richard relinquish overall control of the business.

Virgin Atlantic is majority-owned by Sir Richard’s Virgin Group, which holds a 51% stake.

Delta Air Lines owns the remaining 49%, with the company having scrapped a deal in late 2019 that would have seen Air France-KLM acquiring a 31% shareholding from Sir Richard.

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Last September, it assembled a £1.2bn rescue package which included a £200m injection from its founder, a loan from the American hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management, and substantial contributions from existing creditors.

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman declined to comment.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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