Mark Rigolle Takes Helm as CEO Amid ABS Turmoil

Mark Rigolle Takes Helm as CEO Amid ABS Turmoil

In a recent twist for Dubai-based regional satellite operator ABS, industry veteran Mark Rigolle steps into the CEO role following Amit Somani's abrupt exit earlier this year, injecting fresh energy into the company's leadership dynamics. The announcement, made on April 16, marks a significant chapter in ABS's ongoing saga of transformations.

Rigolle, known for his prior role as the chief operating officer for Rivada Space Networks' ambitious low Earth orbit constellation (LEO), is slated to assume his position as CEO on April 29.

Somani's exit in January, attributed to personal reasons, came after a relatively short tenure of less than two years at ABS. The company, formerly known as Asia Broadcast Satellite and now rebranded as Agility Beyond Space, relocated its headquarters from Hong Kong. Somani had previously held positions at Yahsat, another regional satellite operator based in the UAE.

The rebranding initiative undertaken by ABS in October 2023 signifies a strategic shift towards fostering enduring industry relationships, coinciding with changes in ownership that remain undisclosed. Despite inquiries, ABS has remained tight-lipped regarding its new ownership structure.

British private equity firm Permira, which acquired a majority stake in ABS back in 2010 and attempted to divest the company approximately six years later, lists ABS as sold on its website without divulging further transaction details.

During the latest earnings announcement on January 10, ABS disclosed a rise in revenue attributed to sales to other operators with satellites nearing the end of their operational lifespan. However, specific details regarding these arrangements were not disclosed, with total sales remaining stagnant at $69 million for the fiscal year ending September 30.

Parm Sandhu, ABS's chair, hinted at active partnership discussions concerning spectrum rights across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific, aiming to unlock latent value within their holdings. This includes two orbital slots authorized for military Ka-band radio wave transmissions.

ABS currently operates five satellites—ABS-2, ABS-2A, ABS-3A, ABS-4/Mobisat-1, and ABS-6—providing connectivity and broadband services across the aforementioned regions. The company, established in 2005, relocated its corporate accounts from Bermuda to the UAE as part of its strategic realignment.

The succession of CEOs at ABS has been notable. Somani assumed the role in October 2022, succeeding James Frownfelter, who had taken over from Jim Simpson in 2008, following Simpson's brief one-year tenure.

Rigolle brings a wealth of experience to his new role, having previously served as the CFO for SES and as CEO of O3b Networks, a medium Earth constellation. Additionally, he co-founded Kacific, a regional geostationary satellite operator, and served as CEO of LeoSat until its unfortunate demise due to insufficient investment.

In a statement, Sandhu expressed confidence in Rigolle's leadership, highlighting his extensive industry experience and insights into multi-orbit constellations amid a rapidly evolving market landscape.

Rigolle acknowledged the pivotal moment for ABS and the wider fixed satellite services industry, particularly as traditional geostationary players confront escalating competition from SpaceX's expansive LEO network.

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