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FB Roundup: Scholastic Corporation, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Virgin Galactic

Scholastic Corporation owner Richard Robinson Jr has cut family out of succession plan, Pritzker family’s Hyatt hotel chain doubles stake in luxury resorts, Richard Branson sells $300 million shares in Virgin Galactic.

Scholastic Corporation owner Richard Robinson Jr has cut family out of succession plan

The family behind the US publisher of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games is reportedly reviewing its legal options after its principal left the $1.2 billion business to his lover.

Scholastic Corporation, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, announced in June its second-generation chairman and chief executive, Richard Robinson Jr (pictured), died “unexpectedly” at the age of 84. Robinson was reported to have died of a heart attack or stroke while walking near the family’s home on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.

The board of directors hailed Robinson as “a true visionary in the world of children’s books and an unrelenting advocate for children’s literacy and education with a remarkable passion his entire life.”

The board appointed independent director Peter Warwick, 69, as its new president and chief executive, from 1 August, only the third chief executive in the company’s 101-year history.

However, it emerged this month Robinson left the family business and his personal possessions to Iole Lucchese (pictured), the firm's strategy officer, not either of his sons, siblings or ex-wife, according to his 2018 succession plan, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Lucchese has worked at Scholastic for more than 30 years and was apparently described by Robinson in his will as his “partner and closest friend”.

When the board announced Warwick’s appointment in July, it also said Lucchese, the incumbent executive vice president, chief strategy officer of the company and president, scholastic entertainment, was elected to fill the board seat vacated by Robinson. The board appointed Lucchese as chairwoman of the corporation.

Mary Sue Robinson Morrill, one of Robinson’s sisters, said in a statement she and her siblings agree “our first goal is the continuation of the mission and legacy of Scholastic, the vision and brilliant lifework of both our father and our brother Dick, and we are confident that the new management of the company is fully committed to this goal.”

Scholastic creates and distributes books and e-books, print and technology-based learning programs for pre-kindergarten to grade 12 pupils and other products and services to support children's learning and literacy, both in school and at home.

Robinson’s father, Maurice R “Robbie” Robinson, started the corporation by publishing The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic in 1920. The four-page first edition grew to cover high school sports and activities for 50 Pennsylvania high schools.

Pritzker family’s Hyatt hotel chain doubles stake in luxury resorts

The US hotel operator Hyatt Hotels Corporation, owned by the Pritzker family, has agreed to buy a luxury resort operator for $2.7 billion, instantly doubling Hyatt’s number of resorts worldwide.

The deal to acquire Apple Leisure Group has been regarded as a strategic move by Hyatt to capitalise on the resilient luxury resorts market and the pent-up demand for leisure travel and tourism as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions ease.

The $2.07 billion chain’s results for the second quarter of 2021 saw a net profit of $128 million, a notable recovery from the $236 million loss in the same three months in 2020.

The Chicago-headquartered Hyatt stood to benefit from the Apple extension into existing and new markets, including Europe by 60%. The deal also accelerated its plans to morph into resort management, expecting to earn 80% of its revenues from fees by the end of 2024.

Hyatt planned to complete the deal for Apple Leisure Group from its private-equity owner KKR & Co and travel-and-leisure specialist KSL Capital Partners by the end of 2021. The hotel chain would fund more than 80% of the purchase with a combination of $1 billion of cash and new debt financings, with the remaining $500 million from equity financing. Hyatt secured a $1.7 billion financing commitment from JP Morgan. Cash proceeds from the $2 billion asset sale program were expected to be used to pay down debt, including debt incurred to fund the acquisition.

Hyatt was founded by the late Jay Pritzker in 1957 when he bought the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport. Over the following decade, Pritzker and his brother, Donald Pritzker, developed the venture into a North American management and hotel ownership company and went public in 1962.

In 1968, Hyatt International was formed and became a separate public company. Hyatt Corporation and Hyatt International Corporation were taken private by Pritzker family business interests in 1979 and 1982. In 2004, all of the hospitality assets owned by Pritzker family business interests, including Hyatt Corporation and Hyatt International Corporation, were consolidated under a single entity, Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

Billionaire Thomas Pritzker (pictured), 71, one of Jay Pritzker’s five children, is the executive chairman of the Hyatt board.

Richard Branson sells $300 million shares in Virgin Galactic

Sir Richard Branson has sold $300 million worth of his stock in Virgin Galactic a month after the British billionaire and crew completed the space tourism operator’s test flight into orbit.

The self-made entrepreneur (pictured), 71, sold more than 10 million shares between 10-12 August, regulatory filings reveal. The sale leaves him holding 46.3 million shares worth $1.2 billion. Virgin Galactic’s share price subsequently dropped 20%.

The proceeds were expected to be ploughed into Sir Richard’s other passion investment, Virgin Atlantic, which, along with rival airlines, has suffered from the collapse in travel and tourism in the Covid-19 era. Virgin Atlantic reported a pre-tax loss of $897 million for 2020.

His $3.6 billion family business, Virgin Group, holds a 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic with US carrier Delta Air Lines holding the remainder. Last year, he injected $272 million from the group as part of a privately funded rescue deal to help prop up the airline. He cut 41% of its workforce and retired all its Boeing 747 aircraft. He offered his private Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands as collateral to secure a $680 million loan from the UK government, but to no avail.

This month, speculation mounts that Sir Richard will float Virgin Atlantic on the London Stock Exchange to keep the 37-year-old transatlantic carrier in the air. However, share prices of airlines worldwide remain low as pandemic demand flatlines and entry into major destinations, such as the United States, is still restricted.

Sir Richard beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and business magnate Elon Musk into orbit in what has been called the “billionaires’ space race”. Virgin Galactic’s commercial flights are due to start in 2022. More family investors are beginning to see the opportunities above, including the Porsche family, which has invested in the European rocket launch startup Isar Aerospace Technologies.

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