Entrepreneur Richard Branson is set to invest US$250 million into the Virgin Group as the company battles the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is the most significant crisis the world has experienced in my lifetime,” said Branson.
“Millions of people and thousands of businesses are being severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic.”
Among the companies hit are Virgin Atlantic, which has drastically cut services, and Virgin Voyages, a new cruise line that has been forced to delay its debut season.
Branson said there are more than 70,000 people across 35 countries who work in Virgin companies, all of whom have been deeply affected by the pandemic.
“Because many of our businesses are in industries like travel, leisure, and wellness, they are in a massive battle to survive and save jobs,” he explained.
“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.”
In response, Branson said he was investing the funds to protect jobs.
“I remember the days and weeks after 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,” added Branson.
“We are doing all we can to stop that happening now.
“At Virgin Atlantic, we consulted with and listened to our incredible employees, who virtually unanimously decided they would collectively volunteer to take unpaid leave for eight weeks out of the next six and a half months, in order to limit financial hardship for everyone.
“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 stabilizes.”
However, in the longer-term it was down to governments to take decisive action, he added.
“The chances of securing widespread economic recovery will depend critically upon governments around the world successfully mobilizing various newly announced support programs, which in these unique circumstances will be essential to protect people’s livelihoods,” he explained.
“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 programs over the coming months.”