Richard Branson’s Virgin Cruises was accused of pirating business plans and ideas for building “ultra ships,” and in the process exposing the dark side of Virgin.
Colin Veitch, the former head of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said in a lawsuit that Branson dumped him as the founding partner of what would become Virgin Cruises and used his plan to finance the new venture.
“Upon recognizing the potential for Virgin Cruises to be one of Virgin’s biggest, sexiest businesses,” Veitch said in the lawsuit, “the dark side of Virgin quickly emerged,”
Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which uses the Virgin brand in its telecommunications, fitness chains, airline and space flight businesses. He now wants to take to the seas, building two 4,200-passenger cruise ships aimed at younger travelers.
Branson has a net worth of $5.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and ranks as the 233rd richest person in the world. Veitch said he spent a year securing bank financing for Branson’s business and finding a German shipbuilder to construct the vessels.
Once done, Virgin changed the terms of his deal, he said.
Veitch said he went from a “fully vested owner of the business to an employee -- indeed an indentured servant,” according to the complaint. Veitch claimed that he stood to make $315 million if Virgin Cruises had lived up to its deal.
“Richard Branson and the Virgin Group first looked at the cruise market in the late 1970s, and our current team has been exploring the opportunity for more than a decade,” Christine Choi, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the years, we have been in discussions with a number of parties including the plaintiff, and those discussions ceased in 2012. We strongly believe the claim has no merits.”
Veitch said the partnership between him and Virgin fell apart, and despite non-use and non-compete agreements, Virgin went ahead with the plan anyway. Veitch sought a court order preventing Branson from launching the business.