Virgin Atlantic will retain its brand name after striking a $360 million deal with Delta Air Lines following an argument between Richard Branson and British Airways' Willie Walsh.
Branson bet Walsh £1 million on Monday that the Virgin Atlantic brand will still be around in five years' time after Walsh hinted a deal between Virgin and Delta would see the Virgin brand disappear.
Walsh hit back at Branson's bet in an interview with The Telegraph by wagering Branson a "knee in the groin" if the brand was still around in five years. He said he did not have £1 million, so instead would bet on something “as painful to him as it might be to me.”
However, the short term future of the Virgin Atlantic brand has been assured with the news that the airline will retain its brand and operating certificate as part of a strategic partnership with Delta. Delta will pay $360 million for a 49% stake in Virgin, which is currently held by Singapore Airlines. Virgin Group and Branson will retain the majority 51% stake.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic claim the deal will create an expanded trans-Atlantic network and enhance competition between the UK and North America.
In a blog post, Branson claimed he was "not going anywhere" and said the deal would break the stranglehold British Airways and American Airlines have on trans-Atlantic routes.
"For almost three decades, Virgin Atlantic has been punching above its weight. We fought hard to stop British Airways and American Airlines getting together but they created a complete giant across the Atlantic,” he said. “Now we are partnering with Delta and we can give them a real run for their money, which is why I suspect why BA's chief executive [Willie Walsh] has behaved the way he has over the last couple of days."
This article originally appeared on the website of Marketing, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.