Richard Branson has stepped down as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, Bloomberg and Reuters are reporting. Branson announced his decision Monday, saying the company needed a more involved chairman as it moves forward with its plans to build a fully operational hyperloop.
Last week, the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia had canceled a feasibility study with the company after Branson criticized the kingdom for its involvement in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A little over a year ago, the company made the surprise announcement that Branson would be joining the board of directors, as well as making an undisclosed investment, leading the company to rebrand itself as Virgin Hyperloop One.
“At this stage in the company’s evolution, I feel it needs a more hands-on Chair, who can focus on the business and these opportunities,” Branson said in a statement to Reuters. “It will be difficult for me to fulfill that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many businesses within the Virgin Group.”
Update October 20th, 3:58pm ET: A spokesperson for Virgin Hyperloop One confirmed Branson’s resignation in a statement:
At our stage of development, he felt the company needs a more hands-on Chairman. The Virgin seat will be transitioned to another Virgin Group Executive. We thank Richard for his leadership and vision as Chairman. We are continuing to work in partnership with the Virgin Group to advance our first projects globally.