by Michael J. Shapiro | September 29, 2010

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is launching Virgin Hotels, the company announced last week. The lifestyle brand currently is scouting four-star quality properties in major North American cities, with 150 to 400 rooms and “ample” communal space, according to the company’s website. On Virgin’s target list for likely locations are New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. Virgin will focus first on North America but intends to expand globally. The executive team consists of executive director Anthony Marino, who joined the Virgin Group in 2006 and led the Virgin Hotels founding team; president and COO Raul Leal, who created the operating infrastructure at Desires Hotels; and executive director Paul Whetsell, founder of the CapStar Hotel Co., which was sold to the Blackstone Group in 2006.