Branson says Alaska Air castrated Virgin America: ‘I don’t normally take these things lying down’

  • "I think Alaska is very foolish to just absorb" Virgin America, Richard Branson says.
  • The British entrepreneur says he was very disappointed the takeover happened.
  • Branson says it's typical of large companies to "castrate" acquisitions that were doing well.

Billionaire Richard Branson is not putting the sale of Virgin America to Alaska Air behind him.

On CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday, Branson was particularly frustrated at Alaska Air's decision to kill the Virgin America brand.

"The sad thing is that Virgin America has been voted best airline in the states 12 years in a row by Conde Nast Traveler. And it's a great airline and I think people love it," Branson said.

When asked if he would consider launching another U.S. airline, Branson hinted that he might.

"I think Alaska is very foolish to just absorb it," Branson said. "Watch this space … I don't normally take these things lying down."

Sir Richard Branson.
Cameron Costa | CNBC
Sir Richard Branson.

Alaska Air acquired Virgin America in April 2016 in a deal valued at $4 billion. The British entrepreneur says he was very disappointed the takeover happened, saying there was nothing he could do to stop it.

"I wasn't allowed to have the voting shares by the American government because I had an English accent. America said you can set up and run an airline, but you can't have the voting shares," Branson said.

Alaska Air did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Branson says the Department of Transportation handcuffed him with the restriction. He previously said he started the Virgin Group's airlines because of his dissatisfaction with the flying experience the industry offered. "Virgin Atlantic put the Virgin Group on the map" on a global basis, he said.

While Alaska Air said in March it plans to maintain much of the Virgin America brand elements — inflight entertainment, mood light, music and more — Branson is not convinced.

"Big companies often do this: They buy something because it's doing so well, and then they castrate it," Branson said.

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