TORONTO – Canada’s leading space-technology company says it needs to have a U.S.-based chief executive if it’s going to get greater access to U.S. government and commercial contracts.
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA) has named Howard Lance, currently an adviser to the U.S.-based BlackStone Group, to succeed Daniel Friedmann, who has led MDA through two decades of growth and controversy.
“To fully implement our expansion plans, the company needs a U.S.-based CEO,” Friedmann said in a statement.
“Mr. Lance’s proven expertise in leading the expansion strategy of similar companies will be a tremendous asset to MDA.”
Prior to BlackStone Group, Lance was chairman and CEO of Harris Corp. — a publicly traded U.S. communications and information technology company serving government and commercial customers from 2003 to 2011. He had senior roles at NCR from 2001-2003 and Emerson Electric from 1984 to 2001.
Among other things, MDA designed and built the Canadarm 2 robotic system still used on the International Space Station, following its acquisition in 2005 of the original Canadarm developed by Spar Aerospace and used on U.S. space shuttles.
Friedmann, who will remain on MDA’s board of directors after stepping aside as CEO, was at the helm in 2008 when the Harper government blocked the sale of its satellite division to an American defence contractor, Alliant Techsystems Inc.
Critics of the $1.3-billion deal had warned that the sale of MDA’s satellite technology could hurt Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.
‘We will work diligently to try and ensure that American markets are available to Canadian companies, but Canadians should not have to sell their assets and their companies to access foreign markets,” then Industry Minister Jim Prentice said in a speech at the time.
Friedmann said at MDA’s annual meeting a few days later that he was angry Canada and MDA had the potential to be world leaders in space but they really weren’t “despite what people are saying.”
Effective May 16, almost eight years after making those comments, Friedmann will be replaced as CEO by Lance, who has been executive adviser at Blackstone Group’s private equity business since 2012.
MDA chairman Bob Phillips said in a statement that under Friedmann’s leadership”MDA has grown from a $100-million primarily domestic, private company to a $2-billion internationally oriented, public company.
“We look forward to working with Mr. Lance on moving MDA to the next level of profitable growth and value-creation, and to Dan remaining on the Board and thereby continuing to make a valuable contribution to MDA’s future success.”
Based on recent stock prices, MDA is worth about $3 billion. Last year it generated just over $2.1 billion of revenue and $142.8 million of net income, from just under $2.1 billion of revenue and $47.1 million of net income in 2014.
The company’s next financial report is scheduled for May 4, when MDA also holds its annual meeting in Richmond, B.C.