Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic (C) poses next to George T. Whitesides (R), CEO of Virgin Galactic Holdings after ringing the First Trade Bell to commemorate the company’s first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange on October 28, 2019.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is preparing to sell up to $504.5 million of his stake in space tourism company Virgin Galactic, according to company filings on Monday.

“Virgin intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19,” the company said in a press release.

The sale of up to 25 million shares of Virgin Galactic common stock will be made “from time to time by means of ordinary brokers’ transactions,” the company said. Virgin Galactic’s stock closed at $20.18 a share on Friday.

Shares of Virgin Galactic slipped 6% in premarket trading.

The offering represents just under 22% of Branson’s total stake in Virgin Galactic, which was valued at $2.32 billion as of Friday’s close.

Virgin Group’s airlines have been among those battered by the sharp decline in passenger air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Branson said both Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia would need government loans in order to survive.

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