Eccentric billionaire Sir Richard Branson has made good on rumors of launching his own Virgin cruise ship brand with the formation of Virgin Cruises.
The new company was announced Thursday on Virgin Group’s website.
Virgin Cruises will be based in Miami area and plans call for the design and construction of two new ships. Virgin did not disclose when or where the cruise ships will begin operating, or who will build them.
“We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love,” Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said. “They’ll be sailing on the latest ships offering a great quality, a real sense of fun and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.”
To launch the new brand, Virgin has teamed up with Bain Capital Partners, LLC, one of the world’s leading private investment firms, although the terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We are pleased to pursue this exciting opportunity with Virgin, one of the world’s most respected and iconic brands,” Ryan Cotton, a principal with Bain Capital said. “With a small number of global players, an experience in need of refreshing, and consumers ready for something new and exciting, the industry exhibits all the characteristics of one that is ripe for a new entrant.”
Virgin has recruited Tom McAlpin who will act as CEO of the new company. McAlpin joins Virgin Cruises fresh from his position as President and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea, and previously as president of Disney Cruises.
“Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today, and Virgin Cruises is committed to creating breathtaking experiences for them and a new generation of guests,” McAlpin said. “Opportunities like this do not come often, so I am very excited to lead this business and introduce the Virgin brand to the cruise industry, as it has always put customers at the heart of what it does.”
Branson’s plans to enter the highly competitive cruise market first emerged earlier this year when it was reported that he was looking to tap Arabian Gulf investors for a US $1.7 billion loan for the construction of two new ships. Those early reports said the vessels would operate in the Caribbean and Mediterranean with operations beginning in 2019.