Richard Branson hires boutique bank to find funding for Virgin space companies after turning down Saudi money

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Richard Branson has tapped a boutique investment bank to raise funds for two space companies within the Virgin Group.
  • Branson backed out of talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund for more than $US1 billion in investments after the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has been attributed to the country’s government.
  • LionTree Advisors, founded by former UBS executives, previously advised Liberty Global’s $US23.3 billion takeover of Virgin Media.

Sir Richard Branson is looking for another source of funding for two of his space companies after cutting ties with Saudi Arabia.

In October, the Virgin Group founder said thatVirgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit would suspend its discussions with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund following the disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Virgin Group’s space divisions had been in discussions with the Public Investment Fund for more than $US1 billion in investments, Reuters reported.

Now, Branson has tapped boutique bank LionTree Advisors to line up funding for the space companies. In December, Virgin Galactic reached space for the first time in a successful test flight, buoying investor interest in the company.

“Following a series of successful milestones for our space companies at the end of 2018, Virgin Group has appointed Liontree Advisers to formalise a capital raising process,” a Virgin spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider. “This follows a number of strong expressions of interest in investing in the future development of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, both of which plan significant expansion in the coming year.”

Branson is reportedly seeking to raise at least $US250 million for a minority stake, valuing the companies at $US2 billion, according to Sky News. The Virgin spokesman declined further comment, and LionTree declined to comment.

LionTree is reportedly in discussions with a variety of potential investors, including sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, high net worth individuals, and strategic partners.

New York-based LionTree, founded by former UBS executives Ehren Stenzler and Aryeh Bourkoff, previously advised Liberty Global on its $US23.3 billion purchase of Branson’s Virgin Media.

LionTree didn’t crack the top 50 US investment banks by deal value last year, though it did land at 48 in 2017, with $US8.3 billion of deals advised, according to Dealogic’s league tables.

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