Private equity firm Bain Capital would bring back some of the Virgin Blue vibe to Virgin Australia if its bid to take over the failed airline is successful.
“We want to bring back the best parts of the Virgin Blue culture and make flying fun again," says a Sydney-based Managing Director of Bain Capital Mike Murphy, who is leading the US company's bid team.
Bain is one of the four firms shortlisted by Virgin Australia administrator Deloitte, alongside the "Team Australia" consortium of BGH Capital and AustralianSuper, Arizona-based airline investor and LCC champion Indigo Partners, and former Branson partner in New York-based Cyrus Capital Partners.
Bain has confirmed it is preparing "a second-round proposal to become the owner and operator of Virgin Australia", with a heavy-hitting team of specialists and advisors including former Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, who was once tipped as a future CEO of Qantas and could potentially become the new CEO of the new Virgin Australia.
“We have the strength to rebuild an airline which Australians can be confident in - an airline which will meet their needs," Murphy said in a statement issued to media as Bain strutted both its credentials and its commitment in the high-stakes takeover.
Bain's Virgin 2.0 "will be an airline for all Australians, with Australian management and staff, funded by significant Australian money, and Bain Capital, which has been investing in Australia for more than 20 years."
“We have the depth of experience to help steer Virgin Australia through this turbulence so that together with the staff, Australia can have a safe, financially strong airline which serves the interests of all Australians and meets the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who work in the tourism industry."
“And we have the strongest capital base of any of the bidders. We know aviation isn’t going to return to normal any time soon, but Bain Capital is here for the long haul with deep funding to navigate these difficult times."
"Under our ownership, Virgin Australia will have a sustainable, long-term future," Murphy concluded.
The shape of that future remains to be seen, following media reports last week that Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah has presented to all four finalists a model in which Virgin would retract to a domestic airline flying only Boeing 737s with a focus "on high-demand, lucrative routes, while international services and low-cost carrier Tigerair would be 'optional extras'."
Deloitte is said to have previously circulated a Virgin management plan which would see a fleet of eight Boeing 787 Dreamliners replace the airline's six Airbus A330s and five Boeing 777-300ERs as its sold long-range jets
Most of Virgin's bidders are said to favour a domestic-only model, which is also the most realistic for the short-term given the impacts of the coronavirus. However, this still leaves room for Virgin 2.0 to continue as a full-service challenger to Qantas, be recast as a low-cost carrier or take a middle-ground 'hybrid' position in the market.
Executive Traveller put those questions to Bain Capital, along with the fate of the Airbus A330s even on domestic-only routes, however a spokesman for the company declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Deloitte told Executive Traveller "as the bidding process continues, the future operations of the airline will be determined by its new owner."
Deloitte is expected to trim the shortlist to an even shorter list in early June after reviewing each bidder's second-round pitch, with two consortia – which may include Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and the Queensland Government – presenting a "firm and binding offer" for the airline by June 12.
Lead administrator Vaughan Strawbridge had said he is "confident that our target of achieving a sale by the end of June is achievable."