Branson Sells Another Virgin

Sir Richard Branson has sold most of his remaining stake in the V2 record label to Morgan Stanley for an undisclosed sum.

The U.S. investment bank now holds about 95 percent of the company, having bought 47.5 percent in 2002.

Morgan Stanley has declined to comment on the deal, but is understood to be a passive investor in the label, leaving V2’s management to run the business.

According to the U.K. financial pages, the money from the deal could be used to launch a Virgin-branded music television station.

Virgin launched V2 in 1996 in a move heralded as Branson’s return to the music industry after his sale of Virgin Records to EMI in 1992.

The sale of the new label follows Virgin Group’s deal with the cable television operator NTL, which will soon offer customers a one-stop shop for cable television, fixed and mobile telecom services and broadband Internet under the Virgin brand.

Owning V2 would present a conflict of interest for Virgin if it does decide to take on the likes of MTV.

These are busy times for the company, which is also reported to have appointed ABN Amro and Investec to prepare – its train ticket reservation and billing system – for a possible £200 million flotation.

Billionaire entrepreneur Branson started building his empire by forming Virgin Records in the early 1970s.

The label had a massive hit with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album and fetched a sale price of £550 million when it was swallowed by EMI.

He will keep a personal stake of about 5 percent in V2, maintaining his interest in the music sector.