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Sun, Feb 20, 2022

Virgin Galactic Sees Executive Shakeup

Palihapitiya Resigns, Virgin Begins Public Ticket Sales at $450,000

Chamath Palihapitiya, the executive who led the investment firm that took Virgin Galactic public in 2019, abruptly resigned from his position as board chair on Thursday. His departure follows a prolonged stock slump that has left some wondering just how much of a market there is for ultra-high-cost, 6-minute flights in zero gravity. 

Galactic made some other changes to the company, removing their old quintessentially Virgin logo that contained the iris of company founder Richard Branson. The new one replaces the eye with an outline of their custom aircraft,  Spaceship One. In addition, Virgin has begun selling tickets to the general public for rides aboard its specialized aircraft. Once previously signed passengers have taken their flights, the firm will begin taking open public passengers to the tune of $450,000 each. 

Palihapitiya tendered his resignation with immediate effect, leaving the company to install board member Evan Lovell. Lovell is a longtime veteran of the Virgin Group, now serving as interim chair until a permanent replacement can be appointed. His time at Virgin Galactic has been brief but marked with some downturns, like the firm's now 8-month stock slump that's seen shares drop by 80%. At the height of the Virgin Galactic retail trader fever pitch, the stock was at $57.50, and now, following his resignation, it lies around $8.40. 

Some investors wonder if his departure has something to do with statements made during a podcast in which he said many don't care about China's handling of its Uyghur demographic, saying "Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay. You bring it up because you care and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth." He clarified, saying that he came across as "lacking empathy," as well as reaffirming his belief in human rights. A variety of business associates and political figures distanced themselves from him, the Golden State Warriors disavowing and the Wisconsin Democrat party giving away money he had donated to their cause. Regardless of the cause, he is on to other SPAC ventures while Virgin tries to climb its way back up in the stock market. 

FMI: www.virgingalactic.com

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