Richard Branson is set to enter the hotel industry with a chain of US-based hotels called Virgin Hotels.
Virgin Group is understood to be aiming for 25 hotels by 2017, with the first expected to open within the next year to two years. The first cities set to see Virgin Hotels are reported to be New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Washington.
The new venture will be headed up by venture capitalist Anthony Marino. Raul Leal, the former president of US-based Desires Hotels, will take the role of Virgin Hotels president and chief operating officer.
The company has a $500m (£318m) war chest to acquire and convert hotels or possibly office buildings over the next three years, as part of a joint deal with entrepreneur Alberto Beeck and investor Diego Lowenstein.
The hotels are expected to have between 150 and 400 bedrooms.
By Neil Gerrard
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