The fact remains that JB is still there irrespective of your assumptions.
JB is still there largely because no one (except - perhaps - NZ/Luxon) gave enough of a sh*t to change anything - and perhaps by a curious accident of timing.
The public shareholding was and is tiny. The majority of Virgin is held by corporations - airlines - who have a vested interest. None of them really give a toss whether the airline makes money or not as long as they continue to get the big Australian feed that Virgin sends to them.
In those days, the key player was Sir Richard Branson, who had his own motives. He (publicly) saw Qantas as a weakened enemy and Alan Joyce as an Irish loser. He could do to Qantas what he had signally failed to do to British Airways. So he chose Borghetti - JB.
JB took over in 2010, with a clear mandate to change the airline. At that time, Virgin Blue (as it was known) was profitable and with a fairly healthy amount of cash in the bank. JB has not only burned through all of Virgin's cash, he's burned through various infusions of money from the airline investors.
The one shareholder that did care - Air NZ - was profitable in its own right, but could not afford to have its large investment in Virgin sitting doing diddly-squat with no sign of a return and calls for more money from JB. Nor was Virgin flying any route that Air NZ could not fly for itself.
Unfortunately, the timing of CEO Luxon's coup (March 2016) couldn't have been worse because a new player had entered the scene - Elizabeth Bryan as Chairperson of the Board of Directors (20 May 2015) - and it got murky.
One of the extraordinary relationships in Australian aviation is that of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Leigh Clifford, Chairman of the Qantas BOD. They're an unlikely couple, as different as chalk and cheese, but Clifford has stood by Joyce through thick and thin, even during the grounding, even during the time when politicians and the press (and much of a.net) were demanding Joyce's head.
I think Elizabeth Bryan wanted the same relationship with her CEO when she took over at Virgin. No matter how bad it all looked she was determined to stand by her man, as Clifford was doing with Joyce, and it helped, of course, that JB can be very charming and persuasive.
And even if the other airline shareholders thought L:uxon was right, they weren't about to rock the boat - or fly against the new chairperson. It's not that they couldn't stand up to her - they saw no need to do so.
So Luxon left and JB turned to China - the wheels of which were oiled at least in part by Luxon who sold the NZ share of Virgin to the Chinese conglomerate, Nanshan.
Although I mostly agree with your sense of history, I feel there are other historical aspects of the conversation that should be included.
Out of the blocks the morphing of the old Virgin Blue into the new sleek Virgin Australia had almost immediate success. They were able to grow market share by about 5-7% and increase their returns through higher ticket prices.
Up till 2014 Virgin Australia was continuously growing its share of the market. On face value this was going to be a successful transformation of the airline.
......but there was a considerable amount of cost associated with this. Virgin Australia:
a. effectively started a new airline, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.
b. invested heavily in new aircraft, seating, lounges and branding.
c. included meals / other ancillary services in their fare structures.
In response QANTAS stepped up to the challenge. It improved its product offering and reduced fares to match those of Virgin Australia (The QANTAS of today is a far better airline than the QANTAS that was initially competing with the new VA).
As a consequence, even though on an operational level parts of the business were profitable, the airline fell into a loss position because it could not recover the higher costs through higher fares and increased turnover.
In my opinion the grounding of QANTAS in 2014 would ultimately be the pivotal point in the demise of the Virgin Australia strategy.
The grounding and the Virgin Australia competitive challenge gave QANTAS the narrative it needed to transform the airline.
From a public relations perspective QANTAS, who until this time was losing the PR war turned the tide to have the public largely on their side.
The subsequent re-structure of QANTAS allowed it to directly compete with Virgin Australia on a cost and product offering basis.
Again, in my opinion the Virgin Australia management team made three major strategic blunders.
1. They invested heavily in a new regional airline, whilst at the same time repositioned the core business. The regional business incurred considerable losses.
2. They invested heavily in a new wide body A330 fleet for domestic flying. These aircraft unnecessarily complicated their business and would ultimately result in considerable operational losses.
3. They became too cocky. SRB, who had been riding the Virgin Australia wave to knock QANTAS and Alan Joyce failed to realise he was ultimately digging his own PR grave. There was a significant shift in
the general public’s sediment away from SRB and VA to AJ and QANTAS.
Ultimately, Virgin Australia ended up having to sell itself to other airlines to ensure it remained a viable going concern.
In closing, SRB, JB and their management team bet the entire value (and than some) of the Virgin Blue business to create Virgin Australia…….and ultimately had to close the regional airline, repriotise the A330’s to largely international flying and restructure their business model, to something resembling an upgraded Virgin Blue.
At the end of the day Virgin Australia is now a debt laden, lethargic airline with a divisive board of directors with a limited ability to strategically maneuver itself within a competitive marketplace.
If...and this is a big if, QANTAS had decided to regain the market share it lost during the heat of the VA/QANTAS battle, VA would have probably been a doomed airline. They simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to reposition the airline.