Chamath Palihapitiya is resigning as Virgin Galactic's chair, the company announced Friday. Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive turned investor, will leave immediately to "focus on other public company board commitments," and Evan Lovell will fill in as the interim chair.
"Chamath was instrumental in the launch of Virgin Galactic as a public company and, as our inaugural chair, his deep and astute insights have been incredibly valuable to both me and the company as we have grown and strengthened our business foundation," Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
Palihapitiya's reason for leaving — beyond the stated rationale of tending to his other investments — wasn't evident. He joined the company's board in 2019, just as Virgin Galactic went public, and has gained a reputation as "SPAC king" for supporting companies going public via blank-check vehicles. But SPACs, in general, aren't doing too hot anymore, and shares in four companies that Palihapitiya's SPACs have backed fell last year, according to DealBook.
"It has been an honor to help guide Virgin Galactic through some of its greatest milestones to date, including taking the company public, building a strong capital base for future growth, and assembling a best-in-class management team to bring the company to even greater heights," Palihapitiya said in the announcement.
The now-former chair has also faced heat in recent weeks for his remarks that "nobody cares" about China's repression of the Uyghur Muslims. He never exactly apologized for it either, though he expressed a broad support for human rights.
Virgin Galactic tapped executive search firm Spencer Stuart to look for a new chair, the company said. The company's shares fell sharply Friday morning following the announcement.
In the fall, Palihapitiya sold 15% of his stake in SoFi, another company whose SPAC deal he had backed.