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Richard Branson steps down as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One

Sir Branson said the company needs a "more hands-on chair" to focus on new global growth opportunities

Sir Richard Branson has stepped down from his role as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, DP World announced [image: arabianbusiness.com].
Sir Richard Branson has stepped down from his role as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, DP World announced [image: arabianbusiness.com].

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has stepped down from his role as chairman of Los Angeles-headquartered Virgin Hyperloop One, the company that wants to build a GCC-wide network for the high-speed, disruptive transport technology. His departure was announced by Dubai's state-owned port operator DP World, which is the largest investor in Virgin Hyperloop One.

Virgin Hyperloop One announced Branson had stepped down “based on the increased commitment of time the position now requires”.

A Virgin Hyperloop One statement shared by DP World on the news continues: “Sir Richard played a significant role in the growth and development of the company. 

“He will remain a significant supporter of VH1 [Virgin Hyperloop One]. The company is in a strong position and therefore it is time for a new full time chairman to lead the next chapter of VH1.”

READ: Virgin Hyperloop One says project in Saudi Arabia not 'cancelled'

Branson said he had taken on the chairman role “for the first time in more than 20 years” to help the company through “a transitional period”.

He added: “We have since secured key agreements in India [and] Spain, and are working with a number of US states to further develop this exciting technology. 

“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. It will be difficult for me to fulfil that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many business within the Virgin Group.”

DP World’s statement did not reveal whether Branson’s departure will impact Virgin Group’s investment in Virgin Hyperloop One. Construction Week has approached the port operator for these details.

Remarking on Branson’s departure in a DP World statement on Dubai Media Office’s website, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and chief executive officer at DP World, said: “As the first major investor in Jeddah [Port] 20 years ago we are committed to supporting the kingdom’s effort to grow its economy.

“Trade and infrastructure are key pillars in enabling growth supported by technology and automation and we are working closely with the Saudi government to explore new opportunities for development. As partners with them, we are committed to supporting the Saudi Vision 2030 launched last year by HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.”

Bin Sulayem, who as reported by Dubai Media Office is also a board member of Virgin Hyperloop One, added: “We aim to add value to nations for the long term, delivering innovative and sustainable solutions for the benefit of all.  DP World is the largest shareholder in Virgin Hyperloop One because we see the need for a hyperloop-enabled cargo network under the CargoSpeed brand, launched earlier this year, to support rapid, on-demand deliveries globally. This technology serves our vision to enable smarter trade globally.”

Virgin Hyperloop One has been busy with progress on its key project plans in 2018. In conversation with Construction Week this month, the company said its plans to build a high-speed transport network in Saudi Arabia are on track. The company said it would not attend the Public Investment Fund-backed Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference due to be held in the kingdom on 23-25 October 2018, but denied a Financial Times report’s claims that Saudi Arabia had backed out of a deal for the hyperloop network.

“We are not attending FII but we have not received [an] indication that our projects have been cancelled in [Saudi Arabia],” a spokesperson for Virgin Hyperloop One told Construction Week.

READ: Inside Virgin Hyperloop One’s prototype pod in Dubai

This April, DP World and Virgin Hyperloop One formed DP World Cargospeed, a company that will build a hyperloop system to transport goods globally at ultra-high speeds. 

Commenting at an event held to announce the network, Bin Sulayem said: “We have made a significant investment in Virgin Hyperloop One, because we see the need for a hyperloop-enabled cargo network to support rapid, on-demand deliveries globally.

“We believe in Virgin Hyperloop One’s long-term vision. They are the right partner to shape the future of global logistics, and we look forward to developing the first DP World Cargospeed systems with them.”

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Construction Week - Issue 764
May 31, 2020