Richard Branson first got wind of NTI's Introduction to Insolvency on-app webcast package, ITIQ, just before the pandemic, when he was seeking to understand the various fates his businesses could (well, let's be honest, almost certainly would) suffer and what he should call them.
With both Virgin Active and Virgin Atlantic he got his grey-maned head around a 'Restructuring Plan', flirted with something called 'external administration' with Virgin Australia, but Billy received a panicked call on the NTI 24-Hour Hotline from Sir Richard on Monday (3 April) at 10.48pm. We record all phone calls for staff training and customer quality purposes:
"I thought a company couldn't go into *^*!@**! Bankrutpcy."
"Do you have my pizza? Push the button second from the top."
"Pizza? What? No. How come you're asking me this?"
Billy rushed over an NTI Compendium to Sir Richard 'c/o Necker Island' to help the multi-billionaire grasp what he was clearly missing.
It is true that Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by Sir Richard, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and Billy after 4.30 in the afternoon isn't the best placed person to explain this is equivalent to a UK Administration. It is a pretty complex and pricey process. If an American company is teetering on the edge of Liquidation usually the last thing it can do is raise the funds for a reorganisation plan, which has to be approved by the bankruptcy court and must be manageable enough that the business can reasonably pay off the debt over time.
Virgin Orbit is the spawn of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard's suborbital tourism group which had initially had been cleared for take-off (from the underbelly of a fairly ropey looking 747) by its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or 'Spac'. After what were described by the big boss as 'hiccups' sixteen months after it hit the stock market, following a deal that valued it at $3.2 billion, the news of its plummet and partial demise hit the streets on Monday.
Virgin Orbit will continue to stay in the air, following the request for Chapter 11 protection, as it restructures. However, it has cut 85 per cent of its workforce, leaving roughly 100 employees to run what was left of the business (which mainly entails men standing beside grounded rockets taking selfies). The thing is, when you start talking about unique 'horizontal launch methods' people (these people being prospective 'space tourists') start to get a wee bit nervous.
This is borne out by the fact that Virgin Orbit's share price dropped 17 per cent to a new record low yesterday, valuing the company at less than £48 million, down by more than 95 per cent from its peak above $3.5 billion in January of 2022.
The rumour was that Sir Richard was considering inviting Peter Murrell, husband of Nicola Sturgeon and former CEO of the Scottish National Party, to run the numbers and head up a re-launch, but ...
... what's that? Peter Murrell? Are you sure? How much? Been arrested? Oh.
What's Donald Trump's lawyer doing? Is he free?