Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday.
The petition comes days after Richard Branson’s satellite launch company announced mass layoffs after failing to secure additional funding following a failed launch attempt in January. The company laid off 675 employees, most of whom worked in Long Beach, which is about 85% of it workforce.
The company ceased operations on March 16, putting almost all employees on unpaid leave.
The company is using Chapter 11 to maximize the value of its business and assets, according to a statement released late Monday night.
“While we have taken great efforts to address our financial position and secure additional financing, we ultimately must do what is best for the business,” CEO Dan Hart said in the announcement, adding that Chapter 11 is the “best path forward” for the company.
“We believe that the cutting-edge launch technology that this team has created will have wide appeal to buyers as we continue in the process to sell the Company,” he said.
Virgin Orbit went public on the Nasdaq exchange in January of last year, with a stock price of over $8 per share. Since then, the share price has steadily decreased. On Tuesday, the stock took another 26% plunge from 19 cents to a low of 14 cents as of 8:20 a.m.
Two years ago, the public company was valued at more than $3 billion. As of closing price Monday, Virgin Orbit had a value of $65 million.
To help fund the process, the company has received $31.6 million in new money from Virgin Investments Limited, according to the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The funding will allow Virgin Orbit to continue operating with less than 100 employees as it continues to sell off its assets.
The investment company already purchased a $10.9 million senior secured convertible note to assist Virgin Orbit in paying off an estimated $8.8 million in severance payments and employee benefits costs, and $6.5 million in other costs primarily related to outplacement services and WARN Act exposure.
Under the WARN Act, U.S. corporations with 50 or more employees are required to provide 60-day notices before mass layoffs.
In the statement, Hart boasted about his team’s innovative launch vehicle. Dubbed LauncherOne, the rocket is deployed from under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 while in flight, as opposed to traditional rocket launches from the ground.
After a failed first launch, which is common in the industry, Virgin’s LauncherOne had four successful missions in which it delivered 33 satellites to orbit. Its sixth mission, the company’s first from international soil and the first orbital launch from United Kingdom soil, failed due to a faulty fuel filter that became dislodged, shutting down the second stage.
“I’m incredibly grateful and proud of every one of our teammates, both for the pioneering spirit of innovation they’ve embodied and for their patience and professionalism as we’ve managed through this difficult time,” Hart said in his statement. “Today my thoughts and concerns are with the many talented teammates and friends now finding their way forward who have been committed to the mission and promise of all that Virgin Orbit represents.”
When the company announced layoffs last week, Long Beach officials were caught off guard, having no advance notice, a city spokesperson told the Business Journal at the time.
The city announced a Rapid Response Team from Pacific Gateway, Long Beach’s workforce development arm, would work with affected Virgin Orbit employees to ensure they knew about available resources, help them obtain unemployment benefits and connect them to other job opportunities in Long Beach’s burgeoning space sector.
The team is expected to host federally funded sessions in partnership with the California Employment Development Department, Pacific Gateway Executive Director Nick Schultz told the Business Journal last week.
“Today, I convened our Economic Development Department and our Pacific Gateway Workforce Innovation Network to discuss the path forward to ensure all impacted by the layoffs at Virgin Orbit can quickly access the resources needed for re-employment,” Mayor Rex Richardson said in a Tuesday statement. “We are committed to retaining this incredible pool of talent in Long Beach and are grateful for the outpouring of support from other companies in Space Beach.”
In an email Tuesday, Schultz said Pacific Gateway is working with former Virgin Orbit employees to set up orientations. “It’s the city’s top priority to have the services available to the impacted workers immediately.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the mayor.