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Virgin Galactic disaster exactly 2 years ago inspires Branson in SA

Oct 31 2016 20:25
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – It was exactly two years ago that Richard Branson had to face one of his biggest ever set-backs: his R6.7trn Virgin Galactic tourist spaceship exploded, killing one pilot.

Two years ago to the day, Branson jetted out to the California's Mojave Desert to the scene of the accident, where he started the process of rebuilding his dream of space tourism.  

Now, the owner of Virgin, who flew into Cape Town on Monday to launch Virgin Money Insurance (VMI), said it was this disaster that created a marriage between Virgin and global insurer American Insurance Group (AIG).

VMI is a partnership offering short term insurance products with AIG in South Africa.

“The first time we came into contact with AIG in a big way was actually a couple of years ago when we had the Virgin Galactic accident,” he said. “AIG had actually insured the space ship. Within two days, they had paid up for the accident.

“It’s not often this happens with insurance agencies, but I sat down and wrote them a long letter saying how much I appreciated the way they moved so quickly,” he said.

“I then met up with the chairman of AIG and we thought about what sorts of things we could do around the world together.

“Virgin has one of the best consumer brands, I think, in the world,” he said. “AIG is one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, but mainly as B2B insurance.

“We thought, let’s get married. We’ll bring the best of each other’s skills to bear.”

“We’re here to shake up the industry and create an outstanding customer experience,” he said.

WATCH: Richard Branson's speech

With VMI, customers can apply for and receive a binding quote within under five minutes.  An accident that is not your fault will not affect your pay out after three years – if you did not cause the accident you should not be punished. The insurance will give you a replacement car that is the same as the one you own if you need to replace it.

“Over the next months, years, we will be announcing a lot of other products to work with AIG together,” said Branson. “We’ve finally got a partner here in South Africa that believes in the brand, that puts its might behind the brand as we will.”

WATCH: Richard Branson on Brexit, Trump and investing in SA

Photos from the launch:

Richard Branson hitched a ride up the red carpet into Shimmy's nightclub in Cape Town on Monday in a mini green car - the same one used in Virgin's South African TV advert promoting Virgin Money Insurance. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

Media guests were served virgin cocktails on arrival. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)


Richard Branson is also in South Africa to celebrate the recent news that Virgin-owned Ulusaba Private Game Reserve was ranked the best safari and resort in Africa by Conde Nast Traveller in October. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)


A member of Virgin Limited Edition’s award-winning collection of retreats, the resort is located in the Western sector of the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. SEE THE GALLERY.

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