Satellite Executive of the Year 2005…Our Nominees Are
By Nick Mitsis and Jason Bates
In a year dominated by IPOs and high-profile mergers, it is easy to characterize 2005 as a year of beginnings instead of a year of accomplishments. True, those business ventures that grabbed daily headlines are signs of greater things to come, but some significant events will indeed hallmark 2005, and they go beyond the current financial activity on the global stock exchanges.
It is such achievements that Via Satellite magazine recognizes in its annual Satellite Executive of the Year award. During the fourth quarter, The Access Intelligence Satellite Group editors offer their personal nominees, along with considerations from the written corporate nominations from the industry. Typically, no fewer than six and no more than a dozen executives are evaluated on their accomplishments based solely on the previous calendar year. This year, nine were examined. After much deliberation and vote, the editors of Via Satellite and Satellite News chose the following executives for their lasting contributions to the global satellite markets, technologies, business practices and services innovations.
Via Satellite‘s Satellite Executive of the Year 2005 award will be honored on February 8 at the SATELLITE 2006 Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C. We look forward to seeing you there when we honor our winner.
President and COO, Space Systems/Loral
Working under the financial constraints of a corporate bankruptcy, Patrick DeWitt was able to guide Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) ahead of the major satellite manufacturing companies in 2005.
Dewitt, president and COO of SS/L and vice president of parent Loral Space & Communications, closed his most successful year in his 29-year tenure with the company. As Loral spent most of 2005 in bankruptcy, finally emerging in November, SS/L continued its strong turnaround in the competitive satellite manufacturing market, capturing the most commercial manufacturing contracts and remaining in the black throughout the process. Given the strong business operations SS/L achieved in 2005, the manufacturer will be a key component of the reorganized Loral moving forward.
The improvements initiated by DeWitt in SS/L’s manufacturing processes, along with a milestone-based bonus plan, led to shorter schedules, such as delivering the DirecTV 8 satellite two months ahead of schedule.
In a market that is constantly scrutinized for technological success, and at times, mishaps, attention to quality becomes paramount. Likewise, the demand for increased broadband access throughout the globe is a key driver in the satellite manufacturing industry. SS/L emerged ahead of the competition in the direct-to-user and 2-gigahertz mobile service applications, winning contracts in 2005 to produce three of the most technically advanced satellites put up for bid: Terrestar, ICO and Echostar 11. In addition, SS/L signed contracts for Panamsat’s Galaxy 18 and XM Satellite Radio’s XM-5 — two contracts industry analysts were expecting to go to SS/L’s competitors.
DeWitt’s vision, dedication and perseverance are at the heart of SS/L’s success and its resulting leadership position among its satellite manufacturing counterparts. As such, DeWitt assures his place at the pinnacle of satellite manufacturing to come.
Jean-Yves Le Gall
CEO, Arianespace SA
CEO, Starsem SA
For Arianespace and Starsem CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall, 2005 began with numerous challenges and ended with significant successes. The European launch service provider entered the year in a vulnerable position, with its Ariane 5 ECA grounded and competitors in the cutthroat launch market ready to take advantage. But the tide never turned.
The year 2005 saw not only the return of Arianespace’s dual-launch capability to the market but the European launcher garnering the majority of the launch contracts. Likewise, Le Gall expanded the company’s positions into new business arenas.
The Ariane 5 ECA returned to flight in February, establishing Arianespace once again as a dominant player in the heavy lift area, Likewise, Starsem launched its first U.S. satellite in 2005. In addition, Le Gall successfully brought to market the upgraded Soyuz 2-1a vehicle.
In June, Arianespace received confirmation that NASA wants to launch its next-generation astronomy mission — the James Webb Space Telescope — on an Ariane 5. The European launcher was selected over U.S. launch vehicles. Starsem also captured U.S. commercial business, inking a firm contract to loft the next Globalstar spacecraft.
Le Gall did not focus only on his existing vehicles. In 2005, Arianespace closed on a 121 million euro ($142.8 million) loan with the European Investment Bank for constructing the new Soyuz ST launch facility in French Guiana. In 2004, this project was wrapped in European bureaucracy, leaving Le Gall uncertain of its actual start date. Today, ground has been broken on the new launch facility and construction is proceeding at full speed.
In 2005, the company not only increased its market share but made expansion moves that have Arianespace poised to grow even further going forward. Under Le Gall’s leadership, Arianespace and Starsem provided reliability and customer care that differentiated them from their competitors, establishing them as reliable options for the delivery of both commercial and government payloads.
Chief Executive, BskyB
BSkyB, under the leadership of James Murdoch, demonstrated how a corporation could change the market landscape. The year 2005 has seen the broadcaster examine new service opportunities for increasing its revenue streams. In fact, Murdoch is one of the first to significantly put in motion a business plan that involves bundled service, launching this pay-TV provider ahead of its competition and away from just premium program subscription growth.
Perhaps the most daring example was BSkyB’s announcement in October that it had come to an agreement to buy Easynet, a U.K. broadband operator. Murdoch recognized, and acted upon, the dynamic shift occurring within the traditional customer base. Today’s subscriber wants more than programming and Murdoch focused much of 2005 becoming a player in the U.K. triple-play market.
Looking at Easynet as a business builder, Murdoch’s determination to offer an all-in-one communications package for customers took a significant step in 2005. In essence, buying Easynet would allow BSkyB to offer video on demand and pay-TV to those unable to receive satellite, expanding its base, without abandoning its core competency.
And such a move got noticed. NTL confirmed its takeover discussions with Virgin Mobile in its own bid to create a television and communications giant. The fact that such a business move caused others to immediately react speaks volumes in how a company maintains its lead position in a mature market.
BSkyB also has been working hard in the mobile television arena, signing a deal with Vodafone to launch Sky Mobile TV.
With BSkyB positioning itself in new areas and that its competition stood up and took notice is the type of business that tends to separate today’s leaders from tomorrow’s followers.
President and CEO, Orbimage Inc.
In specialized market segments of the satellite services industry, beating out the competition may not always be enough. Ingenuity, short-term business maneuvers for long-term growth and cutting edge deals are the elements that are separating the winners from the pack. When it is the underdog that makes these moves, people begin to stand up and take notice.
Matt O’Connell, president and CEO of Orbimage, has not only made a smooth transition from Wall Street to the satellite world, but has taken the remote sensing company from the bottom of the commercial satellite imaging market to the top spot.
In 2005, the former private investment banker and corporate finance lawyer led Dulles, Va.-based Orbimage to the top of the industry by strengthening and improving its financial performance, forming strategic partnerships and winning the bidding for rival Space Imaging.
Orbimage now doubles its eyes in space with the control of Space Imaging’s Ikonos spacecraft. The acquisition also provides Orbimage with a sizeable international network of resellers, giving the company a stronger competitive edge against planned imagery systems such as France’s Pleiades and satellites being built by Korea, India and Russia.
But O’Connell did not stop there. Recognizing the financial gains to be made beyond serving the military market, Orbimage signed an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to supply high-resolution global satellite imagery for MSN Virtual Earth. Microsoft will have an exclusive source of updated imagery from Orbimage satellites.
O’Connell’s Wall Street financial savvy helped Orbimage attract the financial backing needed to survive a difficult period and then acquire its rival company in 2005. Such business moves not only solidified Orbimage in a strong position at the top of the global commercial satellite imagery market going forward, but O’Connell’s business tactics demonstrate the foresight needed to stay one step ahead of the competition, shifting the remote sensing market landscape and placing him among this year’s nominees.