Richard Branson turned down $1B of Saudi funding over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder

Brit billionaire Sir Richard Branson has severed all ties with the Saudis — and turned down a $1 billion boost for his space program following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Branson will ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday as he launches an IPO for Virgin Galactic, he revealed. He said he was “bullish and confident” as it becomes the first space company to float.

But Branson confirmed he had formally turned down “a very big check from Saudi Arabia” — which he was set to plow into Virgin Galactic — due to the death of outspoken critic Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, October 2018. The act was believed to be at the behest of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, otherwise known as MBS.

Speaking at the launch of the new Virgin Atlantic route from London to Tel Aviv at Ben Gurion International airport on Wednesday, Branson said he could not wait to go public, adding: “This is going to be the only way for people to invest in a space company,”

Next year marks the 50th year of the Virgin brand and Branson said: “We have had a lot of success putting the first five people into space and turning them into astronauts … Next year should be a very exciting year for Virgin Galactic and the start of a whole new era of space travel.”

The IPO will give Branson’s venture much-needed capital in the race to space against rivals such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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