Virgin Atlantic Airways has launched a search to replace its veteran chairman as it completes plans for a stock market debut galvanized by the impending resumption of its most profitable route.
Sky News has learned that Sir Richard Bransons The flagship company is working with advisers from headhunting company Korn Ferry to identify a slate independent director, including one who could take over from Peter Norris.
Norris, a longtime colleague of Sir Richard’s, has chaired the Virgin Group since 2009 and Virgin Atlantic for almost a decade.
Virgin Atlantic is said to be preparing to find an independent chairman as part of its efforts to ensure a robust corporate governance framework if it pursues a IPO in London.
Sky News revealed in August that the city’s investors were consulted about the surprise fleet, which will come within two years after Virgin Atlantic was forced to put insolvencies on standby as the pandemic decimated its economy.
The lifting of the US ban on European visitors, which is expected to take place next month, has revived booking volumes for Virgin Atlantic and other transatlantic airlines.
Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic received a new capital injection of £ 160 million, with an IPO expected to raise hundreds of millions of pounds of new capital for the airline.
An IPO, now earmarked for next spring, will mark the first time since Virgin Atlantic’s launch in 1984 that it has sold shares to the public – and would almost certainly make Sir Richard relinquish overall control of the company.
Virgin Atlantic is majority owned by Sir Richard’s Virgin Group, which owns 51%.
Delta Air Lines owns the remaining 49%, with the company terminating an agreement at the end of 2019 that would have seen Air France-KLM acquire a 31% stake in Sir Richard.
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In September last year, it collected a rescue package of 1.2 billion. Pounds with an injection of 200 million. Pounds from its founder, a loan from US hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management and significant contributions from existing creditors.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic declined to comment.