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Richard Branson Richer Than Ever From Reddit Traders and Space Plans

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 2/2/2021 Ben Stupples
Richard Branson standing in front of a television screen © Bloomberg Richard Branson

(Bloomberg) -- Richard Branson is expected to fly into space this year, but his fortune has already hit the stratosphere.

The billionaire has added about $2 billion to his wealth since the start of January as shares in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. have surged to a peak after a succession of positive events.

First there was Cathie Wood’s plan for an exchange-traded fund tracking space-focused companies. Then Virgin Galactic was drawn into the Reddit-fueled frenzy of retail investors pouring into shorted stocks. And finally the news on Monday that the venture would resume test flights of its rocket-powered spaceplane. The stock has already more than doubled this year.

Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. had to be rescued from the brink of collapse last year, now has a record net worth of $7.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His stake in Virgin Galactic makes up almost half of his fortune. Shares in the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company rose 3.1% at 9:37 a.m. in New York, while many stocks popular with Reddit traders -- including GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. -- tumbled.

Space tourism is one of the latest bets by Branson, 70, a serial creator of companies ranging from record labels to soft drinks. The Virgin brand he founded as a mail-order retailer in 1970 is now linked to more than 40 businesses worldwide, including British bank Virgin Money UK Plc.

(Updates share performance in fourth paragraph.)

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