Virgin Galactic Holdings, a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, has announced the appointment of Michael Colglazier as Virgin Galactic’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective July 20, 2020. The company has also announced George Whitesides as Chief Space Officer.
Colglazier assumes the CEO role as Virgin Galactic progresses through its test flight programme and prepares for commercial service. He will also join the company’s Board of Directors effective July 20, 2020.
Colglazier joins Virgin Galactic following a long and successful career at The Walt Disney Company, bringing over three decades of experience in developing and growing consumer-oriented multi-billion dollar businesses strategically, commercially, and operationally.
Most recently Michael was President and Managing Director, Disney Parks International, where he was responsible for operations, strategy, and commercial and experiential development of Disney’s international parks and resorts.
Meanwhile, Whitesides will assume the role of Chief Space Officer, focussed on developing the company’s future business opportunities, including point-to-point hypersonic travel and orbital space travel.
Whitesides will also chair the company’s Space Advisory Board, and in conjunction with his new role will step down from the Company’s Board of Directors. Whitesides joined Virgin Galactic in 2010 as its first CEO, after serving as Chief of Staff at NASA.
Commenting on his appointment, Colglazier said: “I am thrilled to join the talented team at Virgin Galactic at this inflection point in the Company’s journey. Like so many others, including hundreds of signed-up customers, I have been inspired by this purpose-driven, world-class brand and the incredible opportunity it offers to open space to change the world for good. George’s vision and outstanding leadership have enabled Virgin Galactic to reach this point, and I am excited to work with him in his role as Chief Space Officer where he will spearhead our future development efforts. On a personal note, I’d like to thank my friends and colleagues at Disney, especially Bob Chapek for his mentorship and guidance over the years, and Josh D’Amaro, who is bringing superb leadership to Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Products. I am grateful to the Virgin Galactic Board, our chair Chamath Palihapitiya, and our founder Richard Branson for their support and trust as we make history together in this amazing company.”
George Whitesides remarked: “Serving as the first CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company for the past ten years has been the honour and adventure of a lifetime. The next decade for Virgin Galactic will be commercially-focused, and it is the perfect moment for us to bring a visionary commercial leader like Michael to take the Company forward. Michael brings enormous experience in building customer experiences for Disney all around the world and scaling businesses into multi-billion dollar organisations. I look forward to supporting Michael as the Company realises Richard Branson’s vision to share the experience of spaceflight with people around the world, now turning my focus to building the next generation of aerospace vehicles and experiences.”
Sir Richard Branson noted: “I want to thank George for his outstanding leadership of Virgin Galactic over the last decade. He has shown dedication and determination as its first CEO to build the Company from early-stage development through to space flight, the first from American soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. In the past year, George has taken the Company public and moved it to Spaceport America. He transitions into his new role as Chief Space Officer having created substantial value as CEO and with Galactic poised for an exciting next chapter.”
“At the same time, we are delighted to welcome Michael as the new Chief Executive to lead Galactic into commercial operations. I believe Michael’s long and distinguished career at one of the world’s leading customer experience brands provides a natural fit with Virgin’s culture as well as Galactic’s requirements as it prepares for commercial service.”
Chamath Palihapitiya, Chairman of Virgin Galactic, said: “Michael’s skill set is highly complementary to that of the incredible team that we have at Virgin Galactic. He has considerable commercial and managerial experience and a proven track record of successfully commercializing new and innovative products and services all over the world. He will create an amazing customer experience for our Future Astronauts as we ramp up for spaceflight operations.”