First space travel, now banking? Sir Richard Branson, billionaire entrepreneur, global philanthropist and member of the HuffPost Small Business Board of Directors, has purchased struggling British bank Northern Rock plc from the British government for $1.2 billion.
The acquisition, which is expected to be finalized Jan. 1, 2012, will transform the struggling retail banking branch to the Virgin Money brand, and will effectively increase Virgin Money's customer base to 4 million people.
As a part of the deal, Virgin Money will move its operational headquarters to the current Northern Rock headquarters in Newcastle in an effort to keep jobs in the region. In addition, Virgin Money is barred from laying off any employees for three years after the deal. British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said, "The sale of Northern Rock to Virgin Money is an important first step in getting the British taxpayer out of the business of owning banks. It represents value for money, will increase choice on the high street for customers, and safeguards jobs in the North East."
While the keys wait to be handed over, the minds at Virgin Money are busy trying to give the banking world a much-needed boost. Currently known as Virgin Money, the financial branch will be officially named once the transaction is completed in 2012. Until then, Branson muses whether the word 'bank' conjures up negative connotations, and challenges the public to propose an alternative that projects a more positive experience. Commenting on the acquisition, he said, "Banking in the UK needs some fresh ideas and an injection of new competition. Virgin has a history of entering new sectors to improve service and provide value for customers. We plan to do the same in banking."
Sir Richard wants to know, and so do we. Do you think the word "bank" now has a negative meaning? What name would you suggest? Let us know by leaving a comment below.