The Real Deal Miami

Virgin Group invests in Brightline, will rebrand as “Virgin Trains USA”

Virgin will take a minority stake in Brightline, Fortress Investment Group will retain majority ownership
By Keith Larsen | November 16, 2018 01:00PM

A Brightline train and Richard Branson

Within two weeks, Brightline will be known as “Virgin Trains USA.”

Brightline announced on Friday that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will provide a minority investment and form a strategic partnership with the high-speed passenger rail company. Under the partnership, Brightline will be renamed this month and will transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019, according to a release.

The company did not disclose the size of Virgin’s investment and said Fortress Investment Group will retain majority ownership.

Brightline currently operates passenger rail service in Florida between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and has plans to expand into Orlando and Tampa in the future. The company recently announced plans to construct a high-speed rail system to connect Las Vegas to Southern California.

Brightline provided few details about what its partnership with Virgin means for Brightline beyond a rebranding and renaming. A spokesperson for the company declined comment.

According to the release, the partnership “could help to provide access to millions of customers with the potential for increased ridership from other Virgin branded travel and hospitality businesses, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Voyages.”

In August, Brightline’s operator All Aboard Florida secured $1.75 billion in federally issued tax-exempt bonds which will allow Brightline to expand rail service to Orlando.

The Palm Beach Post reported in October that Brightline’s passenger volume increased to 106,090 in April, May and June, up from 74,780 during the first three months of the year, but far below projections.

Brightline, whose parent company is Florida East Coast Industries, also owns real estate near its stations, including the nine-acre MiamiCentral near downtown Miami.