Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Money, for £747m, marking the first return to the private sector of a UK government-backed bank since the financial crisis. Virgin, the retail banking arm of Sir Richard Branson, will pay £747m in cash upfront – roughly half of the £1.4bn of government equity that was injected into Northern Rock following its collapse in 2007. The taxpayer could receive up to an additional £250m if the business is sold or floated in future. The sale of the “good” part of the bank marks a £400m loss for the government. The bulk of the funding for Virgin’s bid was provided by Wilbur Ross, the US billionaire investor, who owns a 20 per cent stake in the group. More ON THIS STORY Q&A How the deal affects you Lombard Branson risks Northern exposure Metro Bank has issued just 100 mortgages Good news for Lloyds as Co-op bids for branches On London UK domestic banks ON THIS TOPIC N Rock expects to make profit in 2012 Northern Rock to set off privatisation wave Hedge fund says Northern Rock call is wrong Virgin’s success follows an unsuccessful first attempt to acquire Northern Rock before its nationalisation almost four years ago. This time Virgin faced very little competition for the business, which includes 75 high-street branches, 1m customers and £14bn of mortgages. The sale signals the end for one of the most notorious brands in British high-street banking.