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Inmarsat Pursues CEO Shuffle

By | March 15, 2004

      London-based Inmarsat, the world’s largest mobile satellite communications provider and in the midst of a transition following its sale last December, now will include a new chief executive officer.

      Michael Storey resigned as the company’s CEO to resume his private investment activity, and his replacement is Andy Sukawaty, Inmarsat’s chairman who will add the role of day- to-day leader as CEO. Storey, who has spearheaded Inmarsat’s march into next-generation, high-speed mobile data services, agreed to remain with Inmarsat as an advisor to the chairman for an unspecified period of time.

      Inmarsat, a former intergovernmental organization (IGO), privatized several years ago and last December was sold to private equity funds controlled by Apax Partners and Permira. Those investment firms now hold a majority interest in the business.

      Sukawaty joined Inmarsat in December 2003 as a non-executive chairman. The plan was to work closely with Storey to continue the company’s development of a strategy to launch the Inmarsat-4 satellites, and the next-generation, high-speed data and voice services called the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN).

      Storey led the development of Inmarsat’s next-gen satellite services along with the recent sale of the company to affiliates of Apax Partners and Permira. His role was “vital” to the mobile satellite operator’s continuing progress, Sukawaty said.

      Indeed, Storey led Inmarsat successfully during a “critical time” in its history, added Sukawaty, who has a rich history of filling senior- management posts at a variety of telecommunications and media organizations.

      Sukawaty currently is chairman of Telenet, the Belgian cable operator, as well as deputy chairman of mmO2, formerly known as BT Wireless. He also is on the board of directors of Powerwave Technologies [PWAV], a supplier of high-performance RF power amplifiers for use in wireless communications networks. In addition, Sukawaty is the former chairman of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), and he serves on the advisory committees of The Kansas Cancer Institute and Kansas City Equity Partners.

      One of Sukawaty’s biggest accomplishments may have been his stint at Sprint PCS, where he was president and CEO when the company became the fastest-growing wireless provider in the United States. Sukawaty directed the business from being a privately held partnership to a publicly traded entity valued at more than $50 billion.

      While at Sprint PCS, Sukawaty helped the company to become the best-performing large cap stock in the S&P 500 during 1999. Under his leadership, Sprint PCS achieved strong growth, and it participated in the wireless and Internet convergence.

      In total, Sukawaty has spent 24 years in the telecommunications industry and has been involved in starting four businesses. He specifically has been a pioneer in the paging and cellular industries. Sukawaty also has held leadership posts at NTL Limited – where he was CEO of the diversified British broadcast transmission and communications company. In addition, he was COO of London’s One2One when the company launched the world’s first digital personal communications system, Coastel, a joint venture with US West Cellular.

      Storey’s Strategy

      Storey was an effective leader who led Inmarsat through a difficult period in the face of aggressive competition from five other mobile- satellite systems, said Roger Rusch, president of the Palos Verdes, Calif.-based TelAstra satellite consulting firm. Those heavily funded programs included MSV, Iridium, Globalstar, Garuda, and Thuraya, he added.

      Inmarsat not only grew under Storey’s tenure, it thrived, Rusch said. The company’s profits and revenues have been on the rise, he explained, while adding that Storey prepared Inmarsat for the future with a new generation of broadband mobile satellites and a high-speed service.

      “Only now are analysts beginning to see the wisdom of that approach,” Rusch said. “He is a sound strategic thinker.”

      Inmarsat is a “remarkable” organization because it has been highly successful in a tiny niche market during the past 25 years, Rusch continued, adding Storey was a significant contributor to that success and certainly one of its most effective CEOs.

      “This is a sad situation, and I am sure that his absence will be felt,” Rusch concluded.

      The leadership transition did not surprise William Coulter, a partner in the Washington office of the Coudert Brothers law firm. He noted that new ownership invariably triggers change.

      “It has less to do with appreciation for prior management’s accomplishments than it does with desire for confidence in leadership for a new direction,” Coulter said. “Andy Sukawaty is a well-versed, experienced manager known not only for his strategic analysis and thought but also for plan implementation by bringing out the best in people. For a company like Inmarsat at the crossroads, the choice was clear.”

      –Paul Dykewicz

      (Dominic Cook, Inmarsat, 011 44 20 7728 1256; Roger Rusch, TelAstra, 310/373-1925; William Coulter, Coudert Brothers, 202/ 775 5100)

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