First there was Cathie Wood’s plan for an exchange-traded fund tracking space-focused companies. Then Virgin Galactic was drawn into the Reddit-fueled frenzy of retail investors pouring into shorted stocks. And finally the news on Monday that the venture would resume test flights of its rocket-powered spaceplane. The stock has already more than doubled this year.
Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. had to be rescued from the brink of collapse last year, now has a record net worth of $7.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His stake in Virgin Galactic makes up almost half of his fortune. Shares in the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company were up 10% at 7:54 a.m. in early trading in New York, while many stocks popular with Reddit traders -- including GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. -- were tumbling.
Space tourism is one of the latest bets by Branson, 70, a serial creator of companies ranging from record labels to soft drinks. The Virgin brand he founded as a mail-order retailer in 1970 is now linked to more than 40 businesses worldwide, including British bank Virgin Money UK Plc.