Virgin chief Richard Branson is asking the British government for a bailout—and defending himself against critics who say a billionaire who doesn't pay British taxes shouldn't be asking for help. In an open letter to Virgin employees, Branson said he was asking for a government loan to save his airline, not a handout, the BBC reports. "It wouldn’t be free money and the airline would pay it back," said Branson. He wrote the letter after his initial proposal for a $620 million loan was rejected by Britain's Treasury, which told him to explore other options first. Branson, believed to have a fortune of at least $6 billion, says he has already committed more than $250 million to saving jobs at Virgin businesses including airlines Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.
"I've seen lots of comments about my net worth—but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw," he wrote to employees. Branson also owns and resides on his own Caribbean island, Necker Island in the tax-free British Virgin Islands. "There have been comments about my home," he wrote. "Joan and I did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands." He said he would use the island as collateral against loans, but later clarified that he meant commercial loans, not government assistance, the Guardian reports. (Read more Richard Branson stories.)