Branson challenges Walsh… will Walsh accept the challenge?

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic and Willie Walsh of BA and Iberia are at loggerheads again, this time about the future of Virgin Atlantic as Delta Airlines look set to buy the 49% stake in Virgin, currently held by Singapore Airlines.  Walsh suggests that should the deal go through, Virgin could be ‘consigned to history’ as he believes that Delta is likely to ditch the Virgin brand.

Branson, seriously perturbed at Walsh’s suggestion, hit back via the Virgin website blog.  In rejecting the suggestion, he wrote: “This is wishful thinking and totally misguided.  Will BA never learn?  Let’s see how much they believe this.  Let them put their money where their mouth is.”  Branson went on to say that should the Virgin name disappears within 5 years, he will give £1 million to BA staff and “if not, BA pays our staff £1 million.”

That’s quite a challenge!  Walsh retaliated, as you might expect, saying, “Branson is a billionaire banker, allegedly.  I’m not a billionaire.  So, maybe a bet that would have as much pain to me as it would to him – a knee in the groin.”  Why does he have to resort to a form of violence I do not know; and perhaps shows the mark of the man?

Of course, this is not the first time that Branson and Walsh have clashed; many of their past battles have end up in court, with Branson winning the last bout in the ring, and Branson may just come out on top in this battle, too.  Virgin Atlantic is his ‘baby’ and something that he values more than most of his businesses; in response to Walsh’s comment, he replied, “We intend to carry on doing so for many years to come and contrary to Mr Walsh’s hopes, we have no plans to disappear.  But since they are so confident, will BA accept our challenge?”