Jackie McQuillan left Virgin on 17 March to launch an agency called NMTB Communications, which stands for Never Mind the Bollocks – named after the Sex Pistols album.
She will continue to work for the Virgin Group as a consultant, handling the Branson family’s publicity, alongside special projects such as Virgin Galactic, the venture that aims to offer space flights to the public.
McQuillan told PRWeek: ‘I felt like the timing was right for me to start working with other people.
‘Working on one brand for 18 years, no matter how much you love it, is a very long time. I thought that if I don’t make a change now, I never will.’
Virgin Group is not planning to replace McQuillan.
McQuillan took on the role of PR director in 2007, after Will Whitehorn became president of Virgin Galactic.
She ran the consumer side of Branson’s activities while former M: Communications senior consultant Nick Fox took over the business’ financial comms.