Airline mergers are hardly rare, but Virgin America — being owned by billionaire maverick entrepreneur Richard Branson — seemed like it had an independent future. (After all, Virgin Atlantic still thrives.) And it might have been true if Branson were an American. As a Brit, though, he was unable to stop the merger from happening. “I’d be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another,” Branson wrote on the Virgin American site about the $4 billion Alaska Airlines takeover.
Branson was powerless to stop the merger because US regulations require a US airline have no more than 25% foreign ownership. So as Branson writes: “Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.” He’ll have to make due with a multi-billion dollar gain.