Branson marks opening of Virgin hotel in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Billionaire businessman and investor Richard Branson marked the opening on Thursday of the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, promoting weekend events that kicked off with a show headlined by Christina Aguilera.

English entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin brand Branson sprayed drinks at Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and other notables gathered to mark what organisers dubbed the ‘Unstoppable Weekend’, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The property and its centrepiece Mohegan Sun opened March 25 after USD200 million and more than a year of renovations of the 1,500-room former Hard Rock Hotel.

Branson thanked the governor, a Democrat, for deeming the re-modeling an essential construction business and letting it continue during the pandemic-spurred shutdown ordered in March 2020.

“We would not be open for another 18 months unless you had the initiative of allowing us to keep on going, so thank you for that,” he said.

Founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson laughs with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak during the kick-off party at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. PHOTO: AP

The 70-year-old aircraft magnate, hot-air balloonist and space exploration company chief said he decided against trying one of his trademark daredevil stunts during this visit to Las Vegas.

He rode a jet ski across the fountain pool at the Bellagio Hotel in 2010 to promote his airline and he cut his hand and tore his suit pants as he skidded on a zip line down the side of the Palms Resort in October 2007.

“I nearly killed myself in Vegas, jumping off the top of the Palms building on a windy day,” he joked on Thursday.

Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of the Virgin resort ownership group, JC Hospitality, said executives waited for the lifting of COVID-19 social distancing and capacity restrictions before holding the grand-opening bash.

“We wanted vibrancy. We wanted a party, and we wanted it to be safe,” he told the Review-Journal.

Branson implored people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can travel to Las Vegas.