Virgin Orbit

PR can only go so far… Virgin Orbit, which was one of the buzziest commercial satellite companies when PR master Richard Branson launched the company in 2017, is now grounded.

Branson spun Virgin Orbit out from Virgin Galactic as part of his “long-held dream to open access to space to change the world for good.”

Virgin Orbit’s goal was to revolutionize access to space by launching small and inexpensive rockets from a Boeing 747.

The company went public in 2021 via a SPAC merger and promised to launch 18 missions in 2023 and turn a profit by the end of 2024.

The LauncherOne vehicle wound up making only six flights from 2020 to 2023. Two were failures.

Red ink mounted and after a failed mission in the UK in January, Virgin Orbit suspended operations in March.

The company declared bankruptcy on April 4 and announced May 23 that it was selling its assets. FTI Consulting is serving as Virgin Orbit’s financial advisor.

“Virgin Orbit’s legacy in the space industry will forever be remembered. Its groundbreaking technologies, relentless pursuit of excellence and unwavering commitment to advance the frontiers of air launch have left an indelible mark on the industry,” read the company’s farewell statement.

There was no word from Branson.

Walt Disney Co. suffers image fallout from battle with DeSantis… The Mouse House tumbled a dozen spots to No. 77 in the Axios Harris Poll Reputational Score after taking on Florida’s strongman over his “don’t say gay” law and Reedy Creek Improvement District that was carved out for Walt Disney World.

Republicans rallied to Team DeSantis by downgrading Disney’s score 14 points to 61.

And as expected during this era of political polarization, Democrats boosted Disney from 72.5 to 80.3.

More than four in ten (42 percent) of Republicans are more negative about Disney than a year ago. That compares to 12 percent of Democrats.

The poll also ranked the Top 10 most politically polarized companies.

The Trump Organization and Fox Corp. took the two top spots.

Hobby Lobby, FTX, Disney, Pfizer, Meta, TikTok, Twitter and Chick-fil-A rounded out the list.

Yelling at Yelp… TCS Capital Management, owner of four percent of Yelp, is disappointed with the “abysmal performance” of its stock price and demands that it immediately explore strategic alternatives.

TCS Capital’s May 23 open letter to Yelp’s board pulled no punches. It believes the main obstacle to improving Yelp’s “tragic stock performance” is CEO and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman.

“We believe he inappropriately runs the Company as his private fiefdom — even though he beneficially owns only 5% of the shares outstanding (only slightly more than do we) and has no special voting rights,” said TCS.

“So how has Mr. Stoppelman managed to remain CEO in the face of such value destruction? We believe that the answer is the support he receives from a rubber stamp board mostly full of long tenured directors with minimal relevant experience or investment in the company.”

TCS Capital’s recommendation to Yelp is to arrange a tax-free merger with Angi Inc. to form a powerhouse in the $500 billion home services market.

'We have not heard directly from the investor regarding their views beyond what has been issued publicly, but as always, we welcome constructive input from our shareholders on ways to increase shareholder value,” said a Yelp spokesperson.

The company’s Q1 revenues rose 13 percent to $312M, while its net loss jumped to $1.2M from $915K a year ago.

Stoppelman said those “strong results mark the sixth straight quarter of record net revenue driven by our product-led strategy.”

Amazon opened the first phase of its second headquarters in Arlington, VA on May 22 and stressed its commitment to the local neighborhood.

HQ2 features eight convenient, quick-service food stalls and cafes, though Amazon “encourage employees to venture out into the neighborhood to grab a bite, check out a new restaurant, or support a local business.”

Staffers also don’t have to leave HQ2 to connect with nature. The rooftop gardens provide scenic views of Arlington, Washington, and the Potomac River, along with access to natural light to help reduce stress and improve focus.

Take a gander and get back to work.