Richard Branson is leading a campaign to end the death penalty, along with other key business figures. The Virgin Group founder said there is an urgent need to abolish the practice.

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Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, is spearheading the campaign.

  • Sir Richard Branson spoke to Insider about his ongoing campaign to eradicate capital punishment.
  • The Virgin Group founder called the practice “barbaric” and “inhumane.”
  • He has teamed up with several other business leaders to help spread the message.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has joined forces with other business leaders to launch a campaign to abolish capital punishment in the US and other countries.

The 70-year-old billionaire announced the Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty Declaration in a virtual SXSW event in Austin, Texas, last month.

The declaration was coordinated by the UK-based organization, Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, and has gained 21 signatories. They include Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry Ice cream, Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, Helene Gayle, a director at the Coca-Cola Company, and telecom tycoon, Dr. Mo Ibrahim.

The push to end the death penalty comes amid a global focus on racial and economic justice, exemplified by the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

In an interview with Insider, Branson described the death penalty as “barbaric” and “inhumane.” He explained his involvement in several cases throughout the years where innocent people were sent to death row, in the US and elsewhere. This led him to realize capital punishment is arbitrary and flawed, he said.

Branson gave an example of a case he took up, which involved Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who spent 28 years on Alabama’s death row before being exonerated in 2015. “He was framed for a double murder he didn’t commit, only because the police and prosecutors needed a Black man to convict,” Branson said.

For every eight people executed in the US, one person is freed from death row – often after decades, as was the case with Hinton, Branson added.

This case, among others, highlighted another problem for Branson – that the death penalty is also a symbol of oppression, as well as racial and social inequality.

“Look at people on death row. In most US cases, it’s people of colour and the poor that are sent to death row,” he said. “Some in the US have called it a ‘direct descendant of lynching’, and I’d say there is much evidence of that. In some countries, it’s become a tool of political control and oppression,” Branson said.

Branson believes it is even more crucial to end capital punishment, given it is a wasteful and ineffective misallocation of public funds. Now more than ever, governments must be responsible with public finances given the hard hit on countries’ economies due to the pandemic, he said. “Public funding could be spent on schools, healthcare, infrastructure instead,” he added.

The involvement of so many notable business leaders in the campaign demonstrates an increasing willingness to speak up on issues of inequality, the danger of executing innocent people, and the need for fiscal responsibility.

“We have to ask ourselves: does the death penalty serve a real purpose for us as caring human beings?” Gayle said in a statement. She noted how it felt even more urgent to focus attention on preventable deaths in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its terrible loss of life.

Cohen and Greenfield wanted to ensure they played their part, too. They told Insider: “We have some of the world’s loudest voices – and we have a responsibility to use them to fight injustice wherever we see it.”

Businesses need to do more than just say Black Lives Matter, they added: “We need to walk our talk and help tear down symbols of structural racism.”

Jason Flom, chief executive of multimedia company Lava Media, is also involved with the campaign. When asked about the main objectives he hoped to achieve, he told Insider: “Goals include changing hearts and minds in the general public, as well as educating the next generation of prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and prospective jurors.”

There are 56 countries that still retain death-penalty laws as of 2019, according to Amnesty International. Since 2013, 33 countries have carried out at least one execution, the BBC reported. More than 170 UN member states, out of 194, have abolished capital punishment in law or declared a moratorium.

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Virgin Galactic unveiled its newest spacecraft that will take tourists to suborbital space – check out the VSS Imagine

Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine
Virgin Galactic’s newest

  • Virgin Galactic unveiled its latest spacecraft on Tuesday, the VSS Imagine.
  • It’s the first of a new class of vehicles the firm is developing for suborbital space tourism.
  • VSS Imagine will begin testing this summer, the company said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Tuesday unveiled its newest spacecraft, the VSS Imagine. It’s the first of the company’s third-generation SpaceShip III vehicles.

The commercial spaceflight company will begin testing the spacecraft this summer, conducting ground tests and glide flights out of its New Mexico Spaceport America. Virgin plans to eventually fly tourists into suborbital space and aims to eventually facilitate 400 flights per year at each of its spaceports.

Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine
Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine.

The new vehicle, according to Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier, is integral to those plans.

Read more:Take a virtual look inside Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – a rocket ship designed to fly passengers on the $250,000 trip of their lives

“Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III Class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight,” he said in a statement.

Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine
Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine.

The new vehicle has a more modular design than its predecessors, making it easier to maintain and reducing the time between flights, Virgin said. VSS Imagine will “lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles,” according to the firm.

The VSS Imagine has a mirrored finish that provides “thermal protection,” but also gives the spacecraft a striking look, Virgin said. While VSS Imagine undergoes testing, Virgin will start production on its next SpaceShip III vehicle, VSS Inspire.

Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine
Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine.

VSS Imagine is Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft. Its first spaceship, VSS Enterprise, was obliterated in a fatal crash in 2014. Its next ship, VSS Unity, last flew in February 2019 and is set to undergo a test flight in May 2021.

Hundreds of people have already paid Virgin Galactic $200,000 to $250,000 for tickets to suborbital space.

Shares of Virgin Galactic rose about 3% in trading Tuesday following the new craft’s announcement.

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Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has reportedly hired bankers to go public via SPAC merger

Virgin Orbit Boeing 747

Billionaire Richard Branson has reportedly hired bankers to take his aerospace company Virgin Orbit public through a special purpose acquisition company merger, aiming for a $3 billion valuation, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

This move is consistent with the billionaire’s strategy of taking his companies public via blank-check listings amid the explosion of SPACs in recent years. SPACs are essentially shell companies seeking to merge with private companies with the intention of taking them public.

The entrepreneur in 2019 took his space-tourism company Virgin Galactic Holdings public via SPAC and enlisted billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya as the chairman. Palihapitiya in early March, however, cashed out his entire personal stake for $211 million.

More recently, VG Acquisition, a SPAC sponsored by Branson’s Virgin Group, announced in February that it has merged with DNA testing startup 23andMe in a deal that would put the company famous for its at-home kits at an enterprise value of $3.5 billion.

Virgin Orbit has hired Credit Suisse Group and LionTree, according to The Wall Street Journal, and is currently looking for a SPAC merger partner.

Branson’s company owns 80% of South Carolina-based Virgin Orbit. Mubadala Investment and the United Arab Emirates sovereign-wealth fund own the remaining stake.

The valuation is not guaranteed but the billionaire is banking on Virgin Orbit’s January test launch, which successfully sent its first rocket to successfully reach Earth orbit, eight months after its previous attempt failed.

SPACs have been around for more than a decade but have since recently boomed. Just three months into 2021, data from SPAC Analytics already show 246 SPACs that raised $76.7 billion versus the 248 in 2020 that raised $83.3 billion.

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Virgin Galactic tumbles as billionaire chairman Chamath Palihapitya sells $211 million stake

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya

  • Virgin Galactic stock fell as much as 21% Friday after chairman Chamath Palihapitya sold his personal stake. 
  • Palihapitya netted $211 million after selling 6.2 million shares. 
  • The billionaire executive still holds an indirect stake in the space tourism company. 
  •  Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Shares of Virgin Galactic slid by double digits Friday after billionaire chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sold his personal stake in the space-tourism company for $211 million.

Palihapitiya cashed out 6.2 million shares at an average price of $35, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Virgin Galactic shares dropped as much as 21% as they hit $23.94.  The stock went on to pare the loss to 13% in active trading, with daily volume midday surpassing the average volume of 20.1 million shares. 

Palihapitiya, with his business partner Ian Osborne, still indirectly owns 15.8 million shares via their investment vehicle, SCH Sponsor Corp. Palihapitiya in December sold 3.8 million shares in Virgin Galactic. In a tweet, he had said he needed cash to fund several new projects.

Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, went public in October 2019 by merging with Palihapitiya and Osborne’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle or SPAC.

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Investor Chamath Palihapitiya cashed out his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic for $211 million

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya.

  • Chamath Palihapitiya cashed out his personal stake in Virgin Galactic this week.
  • The space-tourism group’s chairman sold 6.2 million shares for about $211 million.
  • Palihapitiya still indirectly owns 15.8 million shares in Richard Branson’s startup.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya sold his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic this week, a regulatory filing revealed on Friday.

The space-tourism company’s chairman cashed out his 6.2 million shares at an average price of $35, netting him around $211 million. Palihapitiya, along with his business partner Ian Osborne, still indirectly own 15.8 million shares via SCH Sponsor Corp, their investment vehicle.

Palihapitiya previously sold 3.8 million Virgin Galactic shares in December, tweeting that he needed to free up cash to fund several new projects this year.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s space startup went public in October 2019 by merging with Palihapitiya and Osborne’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle or SPAC.

Palihapitiya is spearheading the current SPAC boom, using the vehicles to take companies such as Opendoor and Clover Health public at billion-dollar valuations.

Virgin Galactic’s stock price more than doubled in the first five weeks of this year, but has slumped by more than 40% since then. Its shares fell as much as 11% on Friday.

Here’s a chart showing Virgin Galactic’s stock price over the past year:

SPCE_Chart_050321
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Virgin Galactic slips as billionaire chairman Chamath Palihapitya sells $211 million stake

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya

  • Virgin Galactic stock fell by nearly 9% early Friday after chairman Chamath Palihapitya sold his personal stake. 
  • Palihapitya netted $211 million after selling 6.2 million shares. 
  • The billionaire chairman still holds an indirect stake in the space tourism company. 
  •  Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Shares of Virgin Galactic slumped early Friday after billionaire chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sold his personal stake in the space-tourism company for $211 million.

Palihapitiya cashed out 6.2 million shares at an average price of $35, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Virgin Galactic shares dropped as much as 8.7% as they hit $27.66 in heavy volume during premarket trade. The stock later pared the loss to 6.7%.

Palihapitiya, with his business partner Ian Osborne, still indirectly own 15.8 million shares via their investment vehicle, SCH Sponsor Corp. Palihapitiya in December sold 3.8 million shares in Virgin Galactic. In a tweet, he had said he needed cash to fund several new projects.

Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, went public in October 2019 by merging with Palihapitiya and Osborne’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle or SPAC.

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Watch a Virgin Orbit rocket successfully launch from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747, marking the latest entrant to the commercial space race

Virgin Orbit Boeing
“Cosmic Girl” departed from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, carrying a LauncherOne rocket under its wing

  • Virgin Orbit launched its first rocket to successfully reach Earth orbit on Sunday.
  • The rocket launched from a modified Boeing 747 and carried 10 small satellites for NASA.
  • “A new gateway to space has just sprung open!” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launched its first rocket to successfully reach Earth orbit on Sunday, eight months after its previous attempt failed.

The next step is using the rocket for commercial services, the company said.

Rather than launching the rocket from a traditional launch pad, Virgin Orbit used an “air launch” from under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

The rocket brought 10 small satellites sponsored by NASA into orbit.

The rocket had “for Eve” printed on the side as a tribute to Eve Branson, Richard Branson’s mother, who passed away earlier this month.

The converted jumbo jet, named Cosmic Girl, launched the LauncherOne rocket while flying over the Pacific Ocean, just under an hour after it departed from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

The 70-foot, two-stage rocket then ignited its engine and reached low-Earth orbit at just before 12 p.m. PST.

“Everyone on the team who is not in mission control right now is going absolutely bonkers,” Virgin Orbit tweeted. “Even the folks on comms are trying really hard not to sound too excited.”

Both Gen. Jay Raymond, the Chief of Space Operations at the US Space Force, and Elon Musk, CEO of rival aerospace company SpaceX, tweeted their congratulations.

Read more: The space industry will grow by over $1 trillion in the next decade, Bank of America says. Here are the 14 stocks best positioned to benefit from the boom.

Cosmic Girl had already flown more than 8,000 flights, carrying about 2.5 million passengers, since it was first procured by Virgin Atlantic in 2001. The jet and its crew landed safely back at Mojave later that afternoon.

The 10 satellites, or CubeSats, launched into orbit were part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, and nearly all were designed, built, and tested by American universities.

“A new gateway to space has just sprung open!” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a press release.

“Even in the face of a global pandemic, we’ve maintained a laser focus on fully demonstrating every element of this revolutionary launch system.”

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” Branson added, calling it “the culmination of many years of hard work.”

Following the successful test launch, the company will officially transition into commercial service for its next mission, it said. Customers who have already booked launches with Virgin Orbit include the US Space Force, the UK Royal Air Force, and Swarm Technologies.

The company’s first test launch in May 2020 successfully dropped a rocket from a jumbo jet and ignited it, but its launch failed after an onboard computer lost connection.

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Virgin Galactic falls 17% after aborting key flight test as rocket engine fails to ignite

FILE PHOTO: Virgin Galactic (SPCE) logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the company begins public trading in New York, U.S., October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Virgin Galactic (SPCE) logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the NYSE in New York

  • Shares of Virgin Galactic tumbled as much as 17% to $26 on Monday after a test flight over the weekend failed to reach outer space due to rocket engine ignition issues.
  • “Virgin Galactic is now conducting post flight analysis and can so far report that the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion system lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor,” the company said in a statement.
  • Test pilots flew back to the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico and landed safely. It’s unclear when Virgin Galactic’s next test flight will be. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Shares of Virgin Galactic tumbled as much as 17% on Monday after its first manned test flight on Saturday failed to reach outer space as planned. The rocket motor that is supposed to propel the craft into space failed to ignite, causing the test pilots to fly back to the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico and land safely.

“During the test flight, the rocket motor did not fire due to the ignition sequence not completing,” the company said in a Monday statement. “Virgin Galactic is now conducting post flight analysis and can so far report that the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion system lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor. ” 

Shares slumped to as low as $26 Monday morning after closing at $32 on Friday. The stock has been climbing steadily since the beginning of November and hit its highest level since late February last Monday, when the company signaled the critical test flight was almost ready to launch. 

Read more:Meet the investing chief whose early bets on Amazon and Alphabet helped return 146% to investors over 8 years – Here’s why he thinks Big Tech investors shouldn’t fear regulation

It’s unclear when Virgin Galactic’s next attempt at a powered flight to space will be. 

The spaceflight company tweeted on Saturday: “As we do with every test flight, we are evaluating all the data, including the root cause assessment of the computer communication loss.  We look forward to sharing information on our next flight window in the near future.” 

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