Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit files for bankruptcy after failed satellite launch


Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. after an eleventh-hour scramble to secure further funding failed, the satellite company announced on Tuesday, marking the end of a sudden spiral that followed a botched high-profile launch attempt out of Britain in January.
British billionaire Richard Branson show

British billionaire Richard Branson shows a model of Launcher One, previously a project under Virgin Galactic.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

Virgin Orbit has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, documents show.

Virgin Orbit said it had failed to secure sufficient funding to stay in business and the decision comes less than a week after it laid off most of its staff and ceased operations.

The company said it is committed to a “swift” sale and will receive a $31.6 million infusion from Branson’s Virgin Investments to keep it afloat throughout the process.

The bankruptcy filing listed assets of around $243 million and debts of around $153 million as of September 30.

Despite efforts to secure more funding and shore up the company’s financial position, chief executive Dan Hart (of no relation) said “we ultimately must do what is best for the business.”

Hart, who thanked staff and celebrated the company’s 33 successful satellite launches, said he believes Orbit’s “cutting-edge launch technology” will appeal to buyers.

News Peg

In January, Virgin Orbit’s first attempt to launch satellites into orbit from the U.K. failed. The fruitless endeavor was a huge disappointment to Britain’s nascent space program and marked the beginning of the end for Virgin Orbit, which was valued at $3.2 billion when it went public less than two years ago. In the months following the failed launch, Virgin Orbit’s stock nosedived and amid crisis talks to secure funding, the company paused—then ceased—operations and laid off most of its staff.

Forbes Valuation

$3 billion. That’s how much Forbes estimates Branson is worth, according to our real time wealth tracker. Branson’s fortune is largely derived from the portfolio of “Virgin” branded businesses he founded, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media and Virgin Galactic. He is a self-made billionaire and one of the richest people in Britain. Branson, alongside Tesla and Twitter chief Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is one of a cohort of billionaires racing into space to grab a piece of the emerging market.

More from Forbes Australia