UPDATED: Virgin Group’s Richard Branson Voices Interest in Superman Building for Hotel

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


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Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson was in Providence Monday visiting Virgin Pulse — the company, which is located in the former Providence Journal building, is a leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing.

During the visit, Branson said to 80-90 employees at an invitation-only event at Virgin Pulse that he has interest in the Superman Building for a hotel.

This was not a passing comment, state officials confirmed to GoLocalProv on Monday afternoon that he had voiced the same interest and is potentially looking to start a meaningful conversation. Bill Fischer spokesperson for the ownership group of the Superman Building refused to comment.

Virgin Pulse announced in February that the company reached “unmatched growth, profit expansion, and market-leading technology innovation in 2017.”

The Providence founded company kicked off 2018 with the acquisition of employee wellness provider Preventure.

The acquisition of Preventure may not be the company’s last. The growth of Virgin Pulse may be part of the reason for Branson’s appearance in Providence and his interest in the Superman Building.

In December 2016 it was announced that Virgin Pulse was receiving $5.7 million in state subsidies to keep the company and expand in Providence.

Virgin Pulse’s commitment, and thus, Branson’s commitment has continued to grow. "When Virgin Pulse bought ShapeUp, the worst kept secret among business leaders was that they were looking to move north to Boston,” said Governor Gina Raimondo in 2016. “Instead of losing 65 good-paying jobs to Boston, we're going to create nearly 300.”

For 2017, Virgin Pulse said it “delivered impressive results for its members: Virgin Pulse members across the globe tracked over 423 million healthy habits, lost almost a million pounds, and walked nearly 1.5 trillion steps – or 632 miles – setting new records for what is possible when employees are engaged with their wellbeing each day.”

Virgin Pulse is just one of the dozens of Virgin Groups’ companies in the United States. 

Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson made big news globally when he announced he wants to see hyperloop become a reality, and he wants it fast, he told CNBC.

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“The British billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist chairs Virgin Hyperloop One, one of a few companies racing to develop the technology that it's hoped will revolutionize transportation of people and goods. And he sees it becoming operational in the next two to three years,” according to CNBC.

“The reason I became chairman of this company, I found this ridiculously exciting,’ Branson told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview. "I think if we can build Virgin Hyperloops in a number of different countries, connecting countries, that will bring the world much closer."

Branson’s Hotel Expansion

In March, it was reported that Branson bought the Hard Rock Casino Hotel in Las Vegas.

According to Virgin, its hotels "will intermix a passion for food and beverage, music and culture, fusing along with the local landscape and providing a vibrant and inclusive environment for travelers and locals alike. Virgin Hotels Chicago is now taking reservations, with New York, Nashville and others to follow."

Virgin first expanded into hotels in 2010.  

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Superman Vacancy Just Hit Five Years in 

The Superman Building — Providence’s tallest skyscraper and once the headquarters of America’s ninth largest bank — has now been vacant for five years. The dubious anniversary is a black mark on the state’s improving economy.

When Fleet Bank was in the building — officially the Industrial National Bank Building -- Providence's financial district was a busy hub. Today at lunchtime, the city's streets, like Westminster and Weybosset, are a fraction of what they once were. 


In June 2011, former Providence Mayor and downtown developer Joe Paolino prophetically warned that if Fleet Bank’s acquirer left the Superman Building it would be devastating for Providence’s business community.

Paolino said two years before Fleet's departure, that Providence, state, and federal officials needed to do whatever it took to keep the mega-bank in Providence.

Paolino began to raise eyebrows with his calls for the city to do whatever was needed to keep Bank of America in the city’s tallest and most well-known building. The bank was nearing the end of a 10-year lease agreed to in the early days of now-Congressman David Cicilline’s tenure as then-Mayor.

Paolino warned in 2011 that there was a real chance Bank of America could desert the downtown skyscraper. “It’s a ticking time bomb if they move out,” Paolino said. “It would be like the Biltmore closing. It would kill local businesses.”


Related Slideshow: Superman Building Appraisal - 2014


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