Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has agreed to an initial $17 million bid from aerospace company Stratolaunch, which is interested in purchasing the bankrupt company’s aircraft assets.
Virgin Orbit, owned by Branson’s Virgin Group, was founded in 2017. The British billionaire’s startup sends satellites into orbit with a modified Boeing 747 and had two successful launches in 2021 and two more in 2022.
In March, the company announced it was ceasing operations and letting go of 85 percent of its staff after failing to secure enough funding for Virgin Orbit’s future. It filed for bankruptcy shortly afterward.
Earlier this month, Virgin Orbit revealed it had received more than 30 “indications of interest” regarding bids for the company. Branson’s company has now agreed to the terms of a “stalking horse” bid from Stratolaunch, which refers to a bid that sets the minimum for competing offers.
Other bidders still have time to beat Stratolaunch’s offer
Cerberus-backed Stratolaunch is offering $17 million in cash for Branson’s modified Boeing 747 aircraft, known as “Cosmic Girl,” alongside other aircraft assets. The agreement comes after “hard-fought negotiations,” according to Virgin Orbit’s bankruptcy filings, which noted that there is considerable interest in its other remaining assets and that Stratolaunch’s bid will not prevent others from bidding on the same items.
Launched by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011, Stratolaunch is currently developing the world’s largest plane known as the “Roc.” The plane was originally designed to carry rockets and vehicles but has since pivoted to hypersonic research and development.
Stratolaunch has been owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management since 2019, when its billionaire CEO Steve Feinberg acquired the company from Allen.
The bid deadline for Virgin Orbit’s assets is tomorrow (May 19), with an auction scheduled for May 22. A court hearing later this month will be held to approve its results.
Virgin Orbit and Stratolaunch did not respond to requests for comment.