Monday, April 18, 2016

We Won't Have Dan Friedmann to Kick Around Anymore!

          By Henry Stewart

Howard Lance, the new boss. Photo c/o MDA.
Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), the Canadian space company associated with the various RADARSAT synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites and the iconic Canadarm, announced Thursday that it had hired American Howard Lance to lead the company.

But Lance, who replaces outgoing CEO Daniel Friedmann, will not be based in the BC head office when he takes over on May 16th.

Instead, he'll be working out of MDA’s Space Systems Loral (SSL) subsidiary in Palo Alto, California.

All of which likely makes perfect sense to executives in a firm where most of the revenue over the next few years is expected to derive from the US.

As outlined by outgoing CEO Friedmann in the April 14th, 2016 Business in Vancouver article, "Newly hired CEO of Richmond’s MacDonald, Dettwiler to be based in US," two thirds of MDA's business today is in the United States. According to Friedmann: order to open up that market, having somebody based there is the best approach. It doesn’t have any impact on the Canadian operation... 
We need to be in the States and we need to have a clear person so they can talk to the customers, which I can’t today...
According to the article, Friedmann said he and the MDA management team approached the board of directors about relocating the CEO role (and Friedmann) to the US, before ultimately deciding on recruiting an outside candidate already based there.

Outgoing CEO Friedmann. Photo c/o Ideacity.
As outlined in his Bloomberg executive bio, Friedmann has been CEO of MDA since 1995. 

He joined the company in 1979 and has held a number of positions including engineering operations, sales and marketing and chief operating officer.

Under his tenure, MDA grew from a $100Mln CDN domestic and privately held ground systems company to a $2Bln CDN internationally oriented and publicly traded satellite communication and information company.

Incoming CEO Lance is currently an executive advisor at the Blackstone Group,  an American multinational private equity, investment banking and alternative asset management corporation based in New York City.

Between 2003 and 2011, Lance was also president and chief executive officer of Harris Corporation, an American communications company, defense contractor and information technology services provider to the government, defense and commercial sectors.

According to Friedmann, Lance took Harris "from $2 billion to $6 billion, which is exactly what we’re trying to do now that we’ve got to $2 billion ourselves.

A happier time, with far more Canadian content but less revenue. As outlined in the March 15th, 2011 post, "MacDonald Dettwiler gets "Anchor Customer" for Brampton Robotics Plant," the original plan, after MDA failed to sell itself to ATK in 2008 (which was explored in the April 10th, 2008 CBC post "Federal government blocks sale of MDA space division"), was to develop commercially available on-orbit satellite servicing for the open market based around robotics technology developed through MDA participation in the Canadarm program. When that fell through, as outlined in the January 15th, 2012 post "MDA Satellite Servicing Agreement with Intelsat Expires," another new plan was developed. This time the intent was to buy a US satellite company in order to gain access to the lucrative American market. As outlined in the June 27th, 2012 post, "MacDonald Dettwiler buys Space Systems Loral for $875M," that plan succeeded in a spectacular fashion and led directly to the current situation, where MDA receives 2/3's of its revenue from the US. Screen shot c/o The Commercial Space blog.

Friedmann will remain with the MDA board following the transition.

As outlined on the MDA website, the current board is composed of chairman of the board Robert L. Phillips (Vancouver, BC), Friedmann (Vancouver, BC), chairman of the audit committee Thomas S. Chambers (West Vancouver, BC), Dennis H. Chookaszian (Wilmette, Ill), former deputy NASA administrator Lori B. Garver (Maclean, VA), chairman of the governance and nominating committee Brian G. Kenning (Vancouver, BC), Fares F. Salloum (Plano, TX) and Eric Zahler (NY, NY).
EDITORS NOTE: When it rains it pours, at least according to the old saying and that phrase is likely true, especially for Canadian based MDA employees. 
As outlined in the April 19th, 2016 SpaceFlight Insider post, "OneWeb Announces Florida-Based Satellite Production Facility," the Channel Islands based OneWeb has "inked an agreement with Space Florida that could see as many as 250 high tech jobs brought to Florida’s Space Coast."
This facility will create a high-volume satellite manufacturing capability, enabling mass production with dramatically lower cost for the world’s newest communication satellite technology,” said Allan McArtor, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc, which was part of the winning bid.
As outlined in the November 2nd, 2015 post, "MDA CEO Dan Friedmann Didn't Threaten to Leave Canada Last Week!," MDA was hoping that a successful bid for the OneWeb factory contract would provide future work for the MDA Montreal facility, which is currently finishing up on contracts related to RADARSAT Constellation.
Que Sera, Sera.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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