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Virgin Australia's administrators have one week left to pick its saviour. Meet the final two bidders and their plans for Virgin 2.0.

Jack Derwin
  • There are two remaining bidders vying to drive Virgin Australia rescue bid.
  • Bain Capital and Cyrus Capital Partners have each made their final, binding offer to the airline's administrators, who now have one week to choose one.
  • The offer will then need to be approved by the airline's creditors, many of whom are employees, to finalise the deal in mid-August.
  • This is who each firm is, and what they have planned for Virgin 2.0.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

Most Australians would never have heard of Bain Capital or Cyrus Capital Partners but one of them is about to have the final say on one of the country's only major airlines.

The two American private equity firms have made it to the final knockout round to decide who gets a controlling stake in Virgin Australia.

The troubled airline, the first airline in the Asia-Pacific to collapse during the COVID-19 shutdown, has been trudging through the administration process since April.

Loaded up with $6.8 billion in debt and with little view on when restrictions would be relaxed, it was unclear whether or not it would ever fly again.

Its current owners, a ragtag bunch including the UAE and Singaporean governments, two large Chinese conglomerates as well as Richard Branson's Virgin Group, were unwilling to stump up any more cash. Nor was the Australian federal government willing to bail it out, insisting there would be a 'market solution' to the company's woes.

With no other choice, Virgin and its Deloitte administrators have gone courting investors.

After several weeks, Bain Capital and Cyrus Capital Partners have emerged as the two remaining firms vying for Virgin's affections. Administrators now have one week to weigh up the options and select the binding offer they think will be approved by the airline's creditors in August.

The Foreign Investment Review Board has greenlit both candidates and both bids are understood to likely keep Virgin's head office in Queensland despite state competition.

Here's who they are and what their vision for a new Virgin Australia looks like.

Cyrus Capital Partners

The New York-based company which controls over $7 billion looks to strip back the airline to its core offering, believing it has become too cumbersome and complex for its own good.

Instead, it will focus on cutting back routes and capacity in order to refocus its efforts on maximising the profitability of each and every flight.

It would see it position Virgin as a mid-tier airline, allowing competitors to fight over the top and bottom ends of the market.

Its bid would see the airline toss budget subsidiary Tiger onto the scrapheap but retain Virgin Australia management including CEO Paul Scurrah. It has also promised to give Virgin's 9,000 workers greater input, although it's not entirely clear how it intends to achieve that goal.

Cyrus has been thought to have had the inside lane on a deal. Its founder Stephen Freidheim made a small fortune when he backed Branson's Virgin America back in 2005. His investment saw him gain a set at the company's board table, alongside Branson, with the ties potentially placing Cyrus as the frontrunner.

Another advantage Cyrus wields is that its bid has no major reliance on Australian federal or state governments, promising to provide the financial firepower all its own.

Bain Capital

A little further up America's east coast, we find Boston-based Bain Capital. With around $150 billion assets under management, it's also the larger competitor.

With 12,000 creditors anxiously waiting on Virgin's fate, Bain has made a more concerted effort to woo the workers, who make up three quarters of that figure. The investment firm has lodged a last ditch-appeal to those workers, according to leaks reported by the AFR.

It would see Bain honour the $450 million in outstanding entitlements owed to workers as well as offer equity to those employees who see through the restructure. Like Cyrus, it looks to retain Scurrah as CEO.

However, while the offer is enticing, it may not be enough, with major unions – the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association and the Flight Attendants' Association of Australia – already backing Cyrus' bid. They have expressed reservations over Bain's possible industrial relations approach after bringing on a former Jetstar boss.

Like Cyrus, it would look to strip the airline back to its bare bones initially, with a view to grow its capacity as travel restrictions permit.

Bain also sees Virgin's future in the middle of the market, with a commitment to return the airline to a single fleet made up of Boeing 737s only. It has signalled it wants to get the airline back to the Virgin Blue brand of the early 2000s.

Bain also boasts a relationship, albeit a shorter one, with Branson – having invested in his cruise line Virgin Voyages.

Which one Deloitte eventually goes with is still up in the air.