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By | November 2, 2000

      A new company for the new commercial era the satellite industry is entering has come into being in the form of ManSat. Encouraged by the fact that commercial investment in the space sector on an annual basis first outweighed government spending in 1997, the Isle of Man based operation is now offering “the world’s first privatised route of access to the ITU”, according to its president and CEO, Christopher Bryan Robert Stott. Steven Hamlen reports.

      Stott is a member of what has been dubbed the ‘Space Mafia’. Although this sounds somewhat sinister, it is because he acquired his masters in Space Studies from the excellently named International Space University (ISU), which has many highly positioned alumni in the industry across the globe, all connected via the networking system the institute has developed since it first started back in 1987.

      Indeed, while at Lockheed Martin Space Operations, Stott used his ISU network to put his CEO in contact with an executive the head was having trouble meeting. A few months after this event Stott helped secure another deal for Lockheed Martin with a fellow alum at a big European aerospace company. He did not know the other executive, but the ISU connection worked again to open doors of communication. Commenting on the value of his ISU education, Stott says, “How else would a lad from a small island off the coast of Scotland come to work at the heart of the US aerospace industry?”

      That, it appears, is the true meaning behind the label of the Space Mafia – it can have the power to open up doors and get deals signed when those without the treasured ISU badge pinned to their lapel could possibly find obstacles in their way. And in the case of Stott, give a young person from a small island, albeit one with a huge financial reputation, the opportunity to break into the higher levels of a major global industry.

      With the experience he acquired in the space and satellite industry from Lockheed Martin and Boeing Space & Communications Co, as well as his educational background, Stott decided to make good use of his island’s financial standing by starting a new enterprise.

      Although getting the Mansat concept up and running was not a problem for Stott, when initially starting out on his college course he had difficulty convincing banks to loan him the $30,000 required to undertake his ISU training. As he told Interspace, when he arranged a meeting with his bank manager and told him he wanted to study at the International Space University, the bank manager responded to hearing its name by asking him who would be teaching the courses – Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. However, he did not let one sceptic get in his way and got his place on the programme and soon after graduating in 1996 entered into the global satellite world.

      In a Q&A session with Interspace, Stott gives his view on the industry, the reason he launched this new company and the role he hopes it will play in the satellite industry in the coming years.

      Interspace: Why did you decide to start ManSat?

      Stott: We started ManSat to make a difference, to bring the decisive advantages of a privatised offshore financial and regulatory jurisdiction to the commercial space industry. In effect to fundamentally change the way our segment of the industry operates, we hope, for the better.

      If the commercialisation of space is to succeed, then all aspects of our industry must be re-examined and tailored to meet the needs of the new commercial environment as it continues to evolve from its government roots. Unlike our government past, our future success is not just dependent upon getting the science and engineering right, but also on getting the financing and regulatory/legal matters correct as well.

      This is why we created ManSat, to address what we believe is our industry’s greatest need: a commercialisation of the regulatory processes that our industry ultimately depends upon for its success. Such activity, such a pro-active course of action and approach, is new to our industry, but not to others.

      We are building our activity based upon the working example of the international finance, insurance, and banking industries in their utilisation of the basic and proven business advantages of working in sympathetic and friendly regulatory environments. My time at both Boeing Space & Communications and Lockheed Martin Space Operations confirmed this need.

      We are building ManSat from the Isle of Man for these good reasons. The Isle of Man is the world’s largest offshore banking and finance centre, second largest captive insurance centre, and holds some of the world’s largest shipping and aircraft fleet management programmes, and for good reason; the Isle of Man government is a pro-business government.

      Interspace: What exactly will ManSat offer to the international satellite industry that it cannot get elsewhere – does it have any new angle to offer?

      Stott: ManSat offers the world’s first privatised route of access to the ITU. In short, we offer a commercial choice: a satellite operator can choose to work through its own government for access to the ITU and the orbital slots it needs, or it can choose to file via ManSat in a tax free, low regulation, business focused jurisdiction, that offers the advantages of the world’s largest offshore financial centre coupled with the unique access to the European Union and membership of the WTO. Working with ManSat offers a true competitive edge to our customers. We offer fast, efficient, commercial access to the ITU.

      But again, we offer much more than this. We’ve put together a team wholly focused at supporting our customers needs and to offering the very best services we can to our customers – Cains, KPMG, ISU, Manx Telecom, TBSG…and this is in addition to the expertise and experience of our Board of Advisors – Sune Abrahamson (Intelsat, Arianespace), John Bryant (Former Congressman and Head of the US ITU Delegation), Henry Chasia (former Deputy Secretary General of the ITU), Nigel Evans MP, Jay Honeycutt (President of Lockheed Martin Space Operations – serving in a personal capacity), and Bryan Stott (Chairman Nat West Offshore Bank).

      Interspace: Where do you see the bulk of your business coming from geographically and in what particular sectors?

      Stott: We view our market, just as our industry, as global. We will do business wherever our customers are. Having said that, we have concentrated our initial efforts on both the European and North American markets. We are a European company, headquartered in the Isle of Man, and we have also chosen to have offices in the United States, in Houston, coupled with representation in London and Geneva.

      Our business base, for now, is focused on the international satellite communications industry. Primarily focused on meeting the orbital spectrum and position needs of the world’s satellite operators and manufacturers. These are our customers. As they change and evolve, we will adapt and grow with them to mirror and meet their commercial needs and requirements.

      Interspace: Do you have expansion plans when the company is established? Do you see ManSat adding more strings to its bow?

      Stott: Yes, we do. We are a customer orientated and focused company. We already have expansion plans under way as a direct result of customer feedback, expanding our services and reach into the financial services and captive insurance markets.

      Interspace: Do you have any projections for ManSat, such as how much turnover/market share/customers you need to get within the first year or two, as well as longer term plans?

      Stott: Yes…but we hold this a proprietary information. But I can tell you that we are in discussions with two major satellite operators.

      Interspace: Was it easy to get the company up and running? What were the major obstacles?

      Stott: ManSat represents a new concept and, more importantly, a whole new way of doing business for the commercial space industry. We know we are on to something. All of our partners agree. We thought we would have great difficulty in bringing our concept to fruition, but we are finding a very warm welcome from the industry. Either we are incredibly lucky, or we have gotten it right…and we believe we’ve gotten it right, or that we are bringing a concept forward that the industry is ripe and ready to receive.

      Interspace: Who will be your main competitors, and how do you think ManSat can best win business ahead of them?

      Stott: We are the first of our kind in the world that we know of. To the best of our knowledge, we have no competitors in the traditional sense. Though we expect imitators soon.

      Interspace: Is there anything else you think Interspace and its readers should know about ManSat?

      Stott: There’s really no secret to ManSat and to the advantages we offer to the industry. No pun intended, but what we’re doing is not rocket science. All we have done is privatise our nation’s route of access to the ITU – a regulatory process, no science, no engineering, etc – and offer that privatised access as a commercial product to the industry coupled with the financial benefits of the world’s largest offshore banking centre.

      Interspace: Moving onto the industry in general, what do you see as the most important trends to keep track off in order to keep up with the game?

      Stott: The continuing effects of commercialisation and globalisation are of key interest to ManSat. As our industry continues to evolve, we believe that our services will become of increasing value to our customers.

      Interspace: Do you see trends changing in the short and/or medium and long-term? For what reasons?

      Stott: One interesting change we see is that as commercialisation and globalisation continue to effect our industry we see our industry becoming a subset of the larger worldwide telecommunications industry. This may sound strange, but as our industry moves away from its government base and becomes increasingly customer focused it will change and adapt to meet the needs of its customers and will come to serve their needs, ie to become a subset of that larger telecommunications industry as opposed to its driver. After all, our industry, to a large extent, was the catalyst for the larger base of worldwide and international telecommunications.

      Interspace: Is there any legislation that you think is vital to helping your business or the industry as a whole?

      Stott: Legislation or regulations centring on reform of the ITU is, of course, of great interest to ManSat. The present moves by the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs in Vienna to add a commercial focus to the existing international space treaties is a major opportunity for our industry to advance its interests.

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