There is a knight in shining armor defending the billionaires weighing potential presidential bids — and his name is Sir Richard Branson.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance at a launch event for his new adults-only cruise line Virgin Voyages, Branson voiced his support for fellow billionaires Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, and their potential 2020 campaigns.
“There are some extraordinarily good business people. Donald Trump was not one of those people, he just happens to be in the White House,” Branson said. “But people like Howard Schultz or Mike Bloomberg, they are extraordinarily good business people and therefore I think they would be extraordinarily good in the White House running a country.”
Branson, who grew Virgin from a record company into a major conglomerate spanning the travel, hotel and space industries, maintained his belief that a business owner would be good for the country, despite the way he’s criticized billionaire and business owner President Donald Trump for dividing the nation. Either Schultz or Bloomberg, Branson contends, would be better at bringing Americans together.
“I think they are the kind of people who would get a team together — who wouldn’t be losing their team every other day — they would be the kind of people who would be able to motivate a great team and the kind of people who will think about society as a whole and maybe be a very unifying force.”
As a Brookings Institution report highlighted last month, influential positions within Trump’s executive team have turned over at a rate much higher than past administrations.
There was, however, one increasingly popular political point that Branson did seem to disagree with other notable billionaires on, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who in an interview with the Verge earlier this week came out against Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call to raise the marginal tax rate on America’s ultra-rich.
“I think that people like myself are incredibly fortunate… the ideal thing is for the wealthy to use that wealth to create more jobs, to start more businesses, to tackle the big problems in this world,” Branson said. “If people are not doing that and they are just sitting on vast amounts of money then that money should be put back into society in some way or another and I don’t think most of the very wealthy people would begrudge the government taxing them a bit more in order for the middle class and the poorer people having to pay less taxes.”
In a CNN town hall Tuesday, Schultz called Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70% marginal tax rate “punitive,” yet also admitted he should be paying more in taxes without offering a percentage that he believed would be more fitting.
Reminder that their plan = no plan.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 13, 2019
Why? Because for billionaires, things are already going fine. https://t.co/YrZlU5zvdh
Some criticized CNN for giving Schultz extensive coverage since he has yet to formally announce his candidacy. For Bloomberg, buying that kind of media attention isn’t off the table. According to Politico, the potential candidate is reportedly prepared to spend up to $500 million to defeat Trump whether he decides to run in 2020 or not.