In Brief

Richard Branson criticised for fresh bailout request

Controversial billionaire told to draw on his own fortune to save airlines

Richard Branson has claimed that his airlines will collapse without government cash.

Branson, described by The Guardian as “the UK’s seventh richest person with an estimated £4.7bn fortune,” has asked the government to give his airline a £500m bailout to help it through the “devastating impact” of the coronavirus pandemic on his Virgin carriers.

In a blogpost yesterday, he wrote: “The reality of this unprecedented crisis is that many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it.”

He said he is willing to put his private Caribbean island up as collateral, as he promised to “raise as much money against the island as possible to save as many jobs as possible”.

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However, the controversial billionaire has come under fire for requesting taxpayers’ cash, rather than using his own fortune to rescue the airlines.

Labour MP Diane Abbott tweeted that “Branson has not paid tax in this country for 14 years. On no account should he get a taxpayer bailout, loan or otherwise.”

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, tweeted: “Richard flog your private island and pay your staff, we are in unprecedented times here. Now is the time your staff need support after making mountains of cash for the company.”

Luke Hildyard, of the High Pay Centre, said: “At a time when the government is struggling to fund the NHS and support low and middle income earners hit by the economic shutdown, it would be unthinkable to commit hundreds of millions of pounds to an effective bailout for billionaire Richard Branson.”

However, rejecting the idea that he should draw on his significant personal wealth rather seeking government support, Branson said: “I’ve seen lots of comments about my net worth – but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw.”

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