UPDATE: ABS on Dec. 21 formally announced Simpson’s arrival as ABS’s chief executive officer.
ABS Chairman Jim Frownfelter said: “We are very excited to welcome Jim to the ABS family! His extensive experience, leadership, and knowledge of the business will create significant value for the company as ABS transitions to the next phase of our long-term growth strategy. The board and I are delighted that Jim Simpson as the new Chief Executive Officer will lead the executive team to effect the company’s continuing expansion.”
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator ABS, whose flamboyant co-founder, Tom Choi, resigned in October, has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Jim Simpson as its new chief executive, industry officials said.
Simpson joined Aerojet in September 2015 as senior vice president for strategy and business development after a long career with Boeing, where his last position was vice president of business development and strategy for Boeing Network and Space Systems.
Simpson and Choi declined to comment.
A move to ABS would be a remarkable career leap for Simpson, from satellite and rocket hardware manufacturers keeping close tabs on U.S. government policy to a satellite-services provider whose U.S. government exposure is minimal.
Bermuda- and Hong Kong-based ABS operates a fleet of satellites, several purchased from previous owners, and has grown in recent years on the strength of the backing of its principal owner, private-equity investor Permira.
Permira purchased ABS in 2010 for 184 million euros, or about $224 million at the time, and since then has tripled the company’s portfolio of transponders. Permira has said its goal was to grow ABS to where it ranked among the top five commercial fleet operators in terms of revenue.
ABS has not climbed that far yet, but Permira in 2016 sought to sell the company in what Choi said was an long-expected private-equity investor’s move to monetize its investment after a few years.
Prospective strategic investors — other satelite fleet owners — said Permira was asking too much. No transaction occurrred.
Choi remains on ABS’s board and is a company shareholder but has said he will be seeking a change in career path:
It is unclear whether Permira expects Simpson to manage the business with an eye toward a near-term transaction, or to make the best of a difficult climate for all satellite fleet operators.
Satellite operators have fallen out of favor among investors, who point to slowing growth of the industry’s traditional business of video broadcasting and the huge drop in transponder-lease prices for any applications outside an established video neighborhood. Several of the major operators have seen their equity values decline by 30% to 50% in the past year.
That could make a strategic buyer hard to find.