Whitehorn Leaves Virgin Galactic to Focus on “Other Business Interests”

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009.

Below is Virgin Galactic’s official press release announcing Will Whitehorn’s departure from the company. With traveling and the holidays, I overlooked it until now.

Dec. 23, 2010

Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic since the formation of the company in 2004, is to retire from that role in January 2011. George Whitesides, who was appointed as the first full time CEO in May 2010, assumes the title of President and CEO.

Whitehorn has worked for Virgin Group since 1987 in corporate affairs, brand development and investment related roles. In 2007 he went part time to follow other business interests, but took on responsibility for leading Virgin Galactic through its design and investment phase. The investment round, fully funding the company through launch of commercial operations, was successfully concluded with Aabar Investments. Both the company’s SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles are now undergoing flight test.

Commenting on Whitehorn’s departure, George Whitesides said, “I wish Will the very best for the future. We have known each other for six years now and have built both a warm friendship as well as a strong professional relationship. It was his and Sir Richard’s vision that brought Virgin Galactic to the exciting future it now has. I am honored to be taking this great company forward into the new decade to answer the growing markets for commercial, scientific and industrial space development. We now have a flying space flight system, testing on a regular basis above the Mojave desert; we have a beautiful home nearing completion at Spaceport America in New Mexico and most importantly we have over 400 potential astronauts signed up and monies on deposit in excess of $54 million. Will leaves us in strong shape and he will never be far from the project as we move toward commercial operations.”

Commenting on his departure, Whitehorn added, “I feel incredibly privileged to have played my part in developing the most exciting business plan and space technology anywhere in the world today. Galactic was the result of Sir Richard’s vision and I am delighted that the dream from several years ago is now becoming a reality. I am confident that people will look back on this project as the beginning of the second age of space. Of course I will miss this fantastic team of people, all of whom I have loved working with, but I know they are in great hands with George and I look forward to seeing them all up there in space in the next few years.”

Will is retiring from Virgin Galactic to concentrate on other business interests. He is currently Chairman of Next Fifteen Communications and Loewy Group Ltd. In addition he sits on the boards of the SECC in Glasgow and ILN Group in London. He is a member of the British Government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and The Space Leadership Council. In December 2010 he is also being awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Space Medal for his services to the industry.