"Government should give Richard Branson a loan," insists former Virgin spokesman

21 April 2020, 14:04 | Updated: 21 April 2020, 14:09

By Fiona Jones

Nick Ferrari challenged this former Virgin comms director who insisted Richard Branson should be given a loan by the government: "he's put his private island in as security, the government should put something in."

Virgin Australia has slumped into voluntary administration due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic after it failed to obtain a government bailout.

The billionaire boss Richard Branson has warned Virgin Atlantic will also collapse without receiving financial support from the government.

He wrote to his employees to tell them the airline needs taxpayer support in the form of a commercial loan.

Reports have emerged suggesting the Virgin Group chief could be asking for up to £500 million of public money amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Former Communications Director at Virgin Atlantic Paul Charles said Richard Branson "does have substantial wealth, there's no doubt about it". Nick pointed out he is worth around £4 billion.

"It's paper wealth," said Mr Charles, "so a lot of it actually has disappeared in the last few weeks as the stock markets have fallen and the value of his businesses have fallen.

Sir Richard Branson's home on Necker Island
Sir Richard Branson's home on Necker Island. Picture: PA

"But it does have some cash, we shouldn't feel too sorry...it's not enough to prop up Virgin Atlantic. And if you think about all the jobs that were created as a result of that airline flying, that's why the government should give some form of loan that they would get back one day to protect those jobs."

Delta Air Lines, who own a chunk of Virgin Atlantic could support the firm, Nick Ferrari posited.

"Yes they should be putting money in, Richard Branson should be putting money his mine and he's pledged to put Necker Island in but the government should put something in."

Nick said that there are some people listening whose small businesses, pubs, shops or restaurants may never reopen who could not pledge their private island as a security - "some people might question whether he's deserving of the cash, Paul."

Mr Charles reiterated it is a loan and did agree it is "odd" a private island would be given to a government, but one good outcome might be "we are able to visit as tax payers."

"This isn't money he would keep, it is a loan," said Mr Charles, calling Richard Branson a "fighter" who would be "devastated" Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are in trouble.