Coronavirus UK: Duncan Bannatyne blasts Richard Branson


Duncan Bannatyne and Simon Cowell have hit out at mega-rich stars including Victoria Beckham and Sir Richard Branson for seeking millions of pounds from the taxpayer to bail their failing companies. 

The row comes after Branson asked for a £500m taxpayer bailout to save Virgin Atlantic from collapse.

Victoria Beckham has told 30 employees at her fashion brand they are being put on the Government job retention scheme to pay up to £2,500 of their monthly salary.

But Simon Cowell has revealed he will continue to pay his staff rather than rely on the taxpayer – unlike mega celebrities including Branson who want the taxpayer to pick up their worker’s wages.

The TV tycoon has agreed to keep paying the 50 full time staff who work for his Syco production company in London and Los Angeles.

He has also donated £1.6m from his personal fortune to charities in desperate need of cash.

Cowell, 60, has assured his staff they will not be placed on the furlough scheme even though the coronavirus crisis has shut down TV production of his shows in the UK and America.

He also urged other celebrities and business leaders to ‘rise to the challenge’ of Covid-19. 

Dragon’s Den star Bannatyne, meanwhile, said the billionaire Virgin Group boss should instead go to a bank for help during a row with his followers on Twitter. 

And he also hit out at Branson’s offer to mortgage Necker Island, his home in the Caribbean, as collateral to help get cash to ‘save as many jobs as possible.’

In an open letter to staff he said he was not asking for a handout, but a commercial loan, believed to be £500m, and came after Virgin Australia went into administration.

Sir Richard Branson

The Dragon’s Den star (left) said the billionaire Virgin Group boss (right) should instead go to a bank for help during a row with his followers on Twitter

Simon Cowell has revealed he will continue to pay his staff rather than rely on the taxpayer

Simon Cowell has revealed he will continue to pay his staff rather than rely on the taxpayer

Victoria Beckham has told 30 employees at her fashion brand they are being put on the Government job retention scheme to pay up to £2,500 of their monthly salary

Victoria Beckham has told 30 employees at her fashion brand they are being put on the Government job retention scheme to pay up to £2,500 of their monthly salary 

But Branson was slammed for appealing for taxpayer aid to help stricken Virgin Atlantic, rather than using his £4billion fortune.

Scottish entrepreneur Mr Bannatyne, who said he had supported his leisure business during the pandemic with increased bank loans, said in a tweet to a follower: ‘Do you think the island is worth £500m?

He continued: ‘I have gone to the bank NOT the UK tax payer. The bank. A viable business will get the money from a bank.

‘I never slated him (Sir Richard) I said he should go to the bank for a loan not the hard working UK taxpayers that you show so little respect for.’

In another tweet he added: ‘But tell me, why can’t he borrow the money from a bank?

‘In every company in the world the staff pay their taxes. So you are saying government should financially support every company that is in trouble?’ 

Duncan Bannatyne exchanged tweets with a follower on Twitter in which he hit out at Branson for not going to a bank to get a loan

Duncan Bannatyne exchanged tweets with a follower on Twitter in which he hit out at Branson for not going to a bank to get a loan

Sir Richard Branson has offered to remortgage his Necker Island home as collateral after asking the government for a £500m loan

Sir Richard Branson has offered to remortgage his Necker Island home as collateral after asking the government for a £500m loan

Victoria Beckham is understood to be topping up their wages in an ‘enhanced package’ by paying the remaining 20 per cent – though she is not obliged to do so. Pictured, her store in  Hong Kong

Victoria Beckham is understood to be topping up their wages in an ‘enhanced package’ by paying the remaining 20 per cent – though she is not obliged to do so. Pictured, her store in  Hong Kong

Sir Richard has also addressed the fierce criticism he has faced in recent weeks over his tax situation.

Critics have pointed out that Sir Richard has paid no UK income tax since moving to the tax-free British Virgin Islands 14 years ago.

In the open letter to staff at Virgin Atlantic he said: ‘Many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it.’

He said the crisis facing airlines is ‘unprecedented.’

He also said despite his wealth, this did not mean he had ‘cash in a bank account ready to withdraw’. 

Hitting back at criticism that he was a tax exile who did not deserve help, saying he and his wife ‘did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island’.

He said Necker would be offered as security for any loans. 

He added: ‘As with other Virgin assets, our team will raise as much money against the island as possible to save as many jobs as possible around the group,’ Sir Richard said.

Sir Richard posted a link to an open letter to staff after Virgin Australia went into administration

Sir Richard posted a link to an open letter to staff after Virgin Australia went into administration

Sir Richard is the 312th richest person in the world with an estimated $5.2bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index. 

Clydebank-born Mr Bannatyne recently told Sky News the coronavirus crisis could cost his business £30 million. 

He had been backed by the Royal Bank of Scotland. About 2600 of his employees were put on furlough in March with 400 still working then. 

On Monday Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration after failing to secure a government bailout due to impacts of the pandemic.

HOW DID RICHARD BRANSON MAKE HIS MONEY? 

Richard Branson is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, which started with Virgin Records in 1972 and now employs more than 70,000 people across 35 countries.

His empire has included airlines, radio stations, nightclubs, a Formula One team and health clubs – and the tycoon is estimated to be worth more than $4 billion.

Branson started out at age 16 in the 1960s with the magazine called Student – which sold nearly $8,000 worth of advertising in its first issue – with the ambitious young businessman dropping out of school to focus on the publication. 

He then started his record business in 1969, moving on to launch Virgin Mail Order Records, using the profits to found the Virgin Records music label in 1972, according to Investopedia. 

His success was in part due to his willingness to sign artists who were controversial at the time, including the Sex Pistols, with other popular performers including Ozzy Osbourne and The Rolling Stones. 

In 1979 Branson bought Necker Island for $180,000, and went on to start one of his most iconic companies, Virgin Atlantic, in 1984, with the airline achieving success due to its creative in-flight comforts. 

After selling Virgin Records for $1 billion to keep Virgin Atlantic going, Branson went on to be knighted in 2000 and has remained one of Britain’s most well-known entrepreneurs.  

‘Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration to recapitalise the business and help ensure it emerges in a stronger financial position on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis,’ the airline said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

The move follows a board meeting of the firm’s international shareholders who voted against providing more financial support.

The airline had asked the Australian government for £710 million but the request was denied.

Virgin Australia’s board has appointed Deloitte has voluntary administrators.

The airline, which serviced domestic as well as short-haul international destinations, was founded in 2000 by Sir Richard Branson and was one of Australia’s main aviation providers.

In a letter to the airline’s staff, which he tweeted, Sir Richard said it ‘is not the end for Virgin Australia, but I believe a new beginning’.

He said: ‘Never one to give up, I want to assure all of you – and our competitor – that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.

‘We will work with Virgin Australia’s administrators and management team, with investors and with government to make this happen and create a stronger business ready to provide even more value customers, competition to the market, stimulus to the economy and jobs for our wonderful people.

‘Virgin Australia has captured the hearts of all Australians. That is down to all of you – past and present – who made it the best airline to fly within Australia.’

Sir Richard owns around 10% of the company, which is also owned in part by Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines. 

Announcing his charity donation last month, Simon Cowell said he did not like to lecture other celebrities on what they should be doing, but suggested they had a role to play.

Sir Richard is facing a battle to save Virgin Atlantic and has asked for taxpayer bailout

Sir Richard is facing a battle to save Virgin Atlantic and has asked for taxpayer bailout

SUBSIDY SCHEME WITH A £40BN PRICE TAG

Before the lockdown, the word ‘furlough’ was obscure and rarely used in the UK.

But as Britain’s coronavirus crisis has deepened, it has become part of everyday language for families worried about their financial futures.It refers to an unprecedented scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month to protect jobs as the economy is ravaged by the impact of coronavirus.

Under the scheme, the state will cover up to 80 per cent of the salary of workers in March, April and May if companies keep them on the payroll instead of laying them off.

The payments are capped at a maximum of £2,500 a month.More than nine million workers are expected to be furloughed, or effectively put on taxpayer-funded leave.

Employers pay their workers but reclaim the subsidy from HM Revenue and Customs at the end of this month.

Last week, Mr Sunak announced the wage subsidy would be available until the end of June, adding that he will extend it again if necessary.

However, the extraordinary scheme comes with an eye-watering price tag.

According to The Resolution Foundation think-tank, it will cost taxpayers £40 billion for every three months that it is open. 

He said: ‘I know this is a hugely difficult time for so many — worries about family, health, jobs, paying the mortgage and feeding their family are at the forefront of people’s minds.

‘But there are still other people in business and in entertainment with resources available, so today it’s those people I’m urging to rise to this enormous challenge.’

The number of staff Cowell will continue to pay is almost double the numbers Victoria Beckham placed on furlough.

She has told 30 of the employees at her fashion brand they are being put on the Government job retention scheme who will pay up to £2,500 of their monthly salary.

The decision by 46-year-old Beckham, who with her husband David has a fortune estimated at £335m, to use the Government scheme has been slammed.

Stella McCartney has also chosen to use the retention scheme with up to half her 1,400 staff being placed on furlough.

Cowell has remained in Los Angeles with his partner Lauren and six-year-old son Eric during the crisis which saw the finals of Britain’s Got Talent postponed until later this year.

Auditions for the popular series have already been completed and the elimination rounds were due to begin in May.

Production is being put back to September, but even that depends on the relaxation of social distancing orders in the UK.

Cameramen and other production staff who work on the show are mostly freelance and hired for a set period during filming.

The TV mogul, who has a fortune estimated at £330m, is not responsible for their wages during the periods between productions.

An insider said those who were due to work in May will be used later in the year unless they have other work scheduled.

The Syco staff being kept on the payroll are employed at his offices in the UK and the US in an administrative role.

Cowell has donated $1m from his personal fortune to the charities Feeding Britain and Feeding America.

The organisations provide supplies to food banks for the needy.

Cowell has also pledged £500,00 to the Shooting Star Hospices, a charity he has worked with in the past.

The money will be used to shore up the finances of the charity that works with 800 families across the UK providing support.

Richard Branson’s property portfolio 

From islands to Swiss Alp chalets, there is no property left on earth that Richard Branson could not afford to buy if he so wanted.

So what has the 69-year-old opted to spend his money on?

1. Mahali Mzuri – a safari camp in the Kenyan Bush

Tents in the Mahali Mzuri - a safari camp in the Kenyan Bush, where you can stay for £1200 a night per person

Tents in the Mahali Mzuri – a safari camp in the Kenyan Bush, where you can stay for £1200 a night per person 

In 2013 Sir Branson commissions locals to build a 12-tent luxury safari resort complete with infinity pools and a spa in the middle of the Kenyan Bush.

Guests can stay in one of the tents at the resort for £1200 a night per person during high season, and may catch sight of elephants, zebra, lions, leopards, cheetahs and giraffes during their stay – armed guards protects the tents from predators.

Sir Branson states his fondness for safari on the resort’s website: ‘When you think of going on safari in Kenya, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Great Migration. Words just can’t do justice to the majesty of this awe-inspiring spectacle. I hope you enjoy your Kenyan adventure as much as I always do.’ 

Armed guards protects the guest's tents from predators such as lions

Armed guards protects the guest’s tents from predators such as lions 

2. Roof Gardens, Kensington High Street, West London

In one of London’s most costly areas for real estate, the billionaire has bagged himself a Grade II listed English Heritage roof top garden that spans an incredible 1.5 acres, and is not visible from the shopping high street. 

The gardens boast a members club and restaurant and were bought by Sir Branson in 1981, after he was refused entry to the club twice, reports Bisnow.

3.  Kasbah Tamadot – A Morroccan hideaway

'Welcome to Kasbah Tamadot!': Guests can stay in a standard room for £570 a night or rent the entire place for £38,927 a night

‘Welcome to Kasbah Tamadot!’: Guests can stay in a standard room for £570 a night or rent the entire place for £38,927 a night

Sir Branson bought the hotel to add to his Virgin Limited Editions in 2005 after his parents enjoyed a stay at the 28-bedroom retreat, overlooking Mount Toubkal in the Atlas mountains.

Branson states on the website: ‘Welcome to Kasbah Tamadot! This magical place is perfect for rest and relaxation. Enjoy the fresh mountain air as you wander around our beautiful gardens, or go on a trek through the High Atlas Mountains… I hope you enjoy your stay.’

Guests can stay in a standard room for £570 a night or rent the entire place for £38,927 a night.

4. The Lodge – A Verbier, Switzerland, Ski Chalet  

Mr Branson writes on its website: 'Welcome to The Lodge! From the moment I saw it I knew this beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps was destined to become my favourite'

Mr Branson writes on its website: ‘Welcome to The Lodge! From the moment I saw it I knew this beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps was destined to become my favourite’

In an area often frequented by high-profile friends such as Leonardo di Caprio and David and Victoria Beckham during ski season, the nine-bed ski chalet sits next to Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson’s skiing pad, reports Bisnow.

It can be rented exclusively for £118,039 a week. 

Mr Branson writes on its website: ‘Welcome to The Lodge! From the moment I saw it I knew this beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps was destined to become my favourite mountain hideaway. I chose Verbier because it’s an amazing year round destination and offers world-class skiing, fabulous après-ski and everything you could wish for in a summer escape! Para-gliding, rock climbing, mountain biking… you name it! I hope you too will enjoy your experience at The Lodge as much as I always do. ‘ 

 5. Necker Island, Caribbean 

Mr Branson himself lives on Necker, the British Virgin island he bought aged 28

Mr Branson himself lives on Necker, the British Virgin island he bought aged 28

Would you like to rent an island for the day? Well Mr Branson has made that possible for £34,000 a night.

Mr Branson himself lives on Necker, the island he bought aged 28, because he ‘loves the British Virgin Islands’ and his companies ‘all pay tax in the countries they operate in’. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk