Virgin Galactic Chairman sells his personal stake for $213mn

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Trainee Reporter
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Chamath Palihapitiya
Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya

American spaceflight company Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya has sold his personal stakes in the space-tourism company founded by Richard Branson for around $213 million (Dh782 million).

According to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Sri Lankan businessman has sold 6.2 million shares at an average price of $34.32 this week. And, he still owns 15.8 million shares with his investment partner Mr. Ian Osborne, amounting to a 6.2 percent stake.

In an emailed statement through a spokesman, Mr. Palihapitiya said he would redirect the funds from the share sale toward a “large investment” focused on the fight against climate change.

“The details of this investment will be made public in the next few months. I continue to be a significant investor in Virgin Galactic through Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings and I remain as dedicated as ever to Virgin Galactic’s team, mission, and prospects,” Mr. Palihapitiya stated.

Representatives for Virgin Galactic did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the share sale.

Mr. Palihapitiya and Mr. Osborne, through their New York investment company Social Capital Hedosophia, helped to kick-start the booming Wall Street trend of special-purpose acquisition vehicles. In 2019, Virgin Galactic’s initial SPAC merged with Virgin Galactic, making the Branson startup the world’s first publicly traded space-travel venture.

Dozens of businesses, ranging from online retailers to air taxis to home insurance, are now merging to form SPACS or “blank check” companies that are publicly traded before integrating with an existing company. Social Capital’s latest initiatives include Opendoor Technologies, a company that buys, refurbishes, and sells homes.

The Virgin Galactic SPAC transaction raised approximately $800 million, with Mr. Palihapitiya contributing $100 million directly.

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