Transportation technology company Virgin Hyperloop One on Monday announced that its chairman Richard Branson is stepping down. The company said that Branson has stepped down to make way for a more "hands-on" leader, as the company is all set to take on ambitious projects like building a supersonic transportation system in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Media reports last week stated that Saudi Arabia had terminated a planned deal with Virgin Hyperloop One after Richard Branson halted investment talks with Riyadh over the suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The company, however, but did not mention this incident in their statement on Monday.
"At this stage in the company's evolution, I feel it needs a more hands-on Chair, who can focus on the business and these opportunities," Branson said, adding, "It will be difficult for me to fulfil that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many businesses within the Virgin Group."
Branson also added that he had taken on the chairman role for Virgin Hyperloop One to stabilise it and grow it internationally. Earlier this month, he had said Virgin Group would suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures, in light of Khashoggi's disappearance and subsequent killing inside the consulate in Istanbul.
Richard also suspended his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea.
An investor, author and philanthropist, Richard Branson founded the Virgin Group along with Nik Powell in the early 1970s. Among the many companies the group operates, Virgin Hyperloop One was formed in 2014. Intended to move passengers or cargo at airline speeds at a fraction of the cost of air travel, it raised $50 million in its latest round of funding in December 2017 from Caspian VC Partners, DP World Group, and Virgin Group.