SIR Richard Branson has backed former Northern Rock staff but stopped short of committing himself to continued financial support for the bank' charitable arm.
On his first visit to see the home of his new Virgin Money empire, Sir Richard praised hard-working staff at the former Northern Rock branches and headquarters and said he was confident the days of large scale redundancies were behind them.
The Gosforth-based business was sold to Virgin Money in a £747m deal, which includes 75 branches and 2,100 staff, one million customers, a £14bn mortgage book and retail deposits worth £16bn.
Sir Richard was mobbed yesterday by curious customers and passers-by on his visit to Newcastle’s Northumberland Street branch.
In 2007 the same branch was seen in news reports across the world as people queued around the block to withdraw their savings.
Sir Richard said he believed the business would now go from strength to strength and added that he regretted the bank could not have been renamed Virgin Rock.
The historical name will soon disappear from the high street, remaining only on the face of the Northumberland Street branch clock, a feature the tycoon said he was happy to keep.
>> Turn to page 2 to see an image gallery of Sir Richard Branson in Newcastle