(London) British billionaire Richard Branson says in an interview with the BBC on Thursday that he believed at the height of the pandemic that he was going to “lose everything” and suffered criticism when his group, Virgin, asked for government help. .

“What we wanted was to get government support like it happened in America, like it happened in France, like it happened in Italy. Not gifts […] but loans”, he insists.

Mr. Branson had tried to solicit the help of the Conservative executive of Boris Johnson, who had refused him a plea of ​​inadmissibility, probably believing that the finances of the businessman allowed him to bail out his company without doing appeal to taxpayers.

“We had 50, 60 all grounded, and the sports clubs were all closed, the hotels were all closed,” recalls Mr. Branson, who adds: “The worst would have been if 60,000 people (employed by the Virgin group, editor’s note) had found themselves on the street”.

The billionaire, who says he personally lost about 1.5 billion pounds during the pandemic, had finally injected 200 million pounds from his pocket to save his Virgin Atlantic airline from bankruptcy.

“ There was a moment when I thought we were going to lose everything ”, he says. Mr. Branson says he was “a bit depressed” for a few months. “ I had never experienced this before,” he says.

“ The personal money that I earn, I give it entirely to charities ”, assures the businessman again during a river interview, in which he also said that he regretted “ the billionaire label ” . “People don’t address you by your net worth, they call you by your name,” he notes.

“All I can say is that we have paid billions and billions in taxes over the years and we will continue to do so and our businesses pay taxes no matter what country and territory they are in. are based,” he insists.

Richard Branson had experienced “one of the most extraordinary days” in 2021, floating at an altitude of 86 km for a few minutes aboard the VSS Unity, the ship of Virgin Galactic, his space tourism company.

But after a failure in January, Virgin Orbit, which designs rockets dedicated to launching small satellites, filed for bankruptcy last month in the United States with a view to putting it up for sale.

The 72-year-old entrepreneur also told the BBC that he had started thinking about his succession: “ We are having serious family discussions ” on this subject.