Necker Island has been Richard Branson’s personal fiefdom for 40 years. But as his Virgin-branded businesses are battered by the coronavirus crisis, the billionaire is turning to his Caribbean hideaway for cash.
Branson wrote to staff Monday saying he plans to “raise as much money against the island as possible” as the pandemic lays waste to industries where Virgin competes, including airlines, hotels and cruises.
While it’s true that Branson has been hit hard by the economic fallout from Covid-19, the move to put his own home on the line is also a result of the lukewarm response to his pleas for government bailouts of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. The Australian company collapsed into administration on Tuesday.
Decades of media-friendly exploits, from attempts at world records to glitzy airline route launches to a bid to establish the world’s first space-tourism company, have become a millstone as states balk at coming to the aid of one of the world’s best-known entrepreneurs.
Coloring that reluctance is Necker Island itself, with the British Virgin Islands retreat portrayed as nothing more than a tax haven by some U.K. politicians and newspapers.
Branson confronts the claim in his letter, …