O3b’s Steve Collar to lead SES, Karim Michel Sabbagh stepping down

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WASHINGTON — Satellite fleet operator SES on Feb. 12 announced that CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh will be leaving the company April 5, exactly four years after assuming the position.

Steve Collar, who ran the medium-Earth orbit satellite operator O3b Networks from 2012 to 2017 and now leads all of SES’s connectivity business, will replace Sabbagh.

Additionally, SES’s Chief Financial Officer Padraig McCarthy, is retiring, with another former O3b executive, CFO Andrew Brown, taking his place.

In a statement, SES said Sabbagh chose to leave the company “ In order to spend time with his family and to pursue new interests.”

McCarthy, who has been at SES since 1995, agreed to “remain at the disposal of the company” post-retirement.

SES has yet to select a replacement for Steve Collar to lead the company’s SES Networks division, which now also includes the O3b broadband satellites as part of its portfolio.

Romain Bausch, the 19-year CEO of SES until 2014 and current chairman of the company, praised Collar and Browne’s success with O3b, which has 12 satellites in orbit, four more launching next month, another four launching in 2019. After SES took full ownership of O3b in 2016, the operator placed a seven-satellite order with Boeing for O3b mPower, a constellation designed to beam 10 terabits of high-speed internet connectivity.

Karim Michel Sabbagh SES CEO
Karim Michel Sabbagh, CEO of SES. Credit: SES

“We are extremely excited to welcome Steve and Andrew as our next CEO and CFO,” Bausch said. “They each have extensive experience with SES and the broader satellite industry, especially also as the architects of O3b, the fastest growing and most successful satellite start-up. We have confidence that, with our leadership team, our industry position, our solid balance sheet and our differentiated assets and capabilities, we are well positioned to deliver on our objectives.”

Sabbagh joined SES from global consulting firm Booz & Co. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Under his leadership, SES took full ownership of O3b Networks, transforming SES into a geostationary- and medium-Earth orbit operator. He also led SES in the 2016 purchase of Israeli media and broadcast company RR Media for $242 million. SES then merged RR Media with its SES Platforms Services subsidiary to become MX1, meant to expand both traditional television broadcast as well as nonlinear, IP-based video distribution. Following those two acquisitions, SES reshaped its operating model into two divisions: SES Networks focusing on connectivity, and SES Video focusing on television broadcast.

“Karim steered the strategic positioning of SES in a fast-changing environment, built world-class capabilities with the leadership team and restructured our business and organisation to allow for full implementation of our strategy,” Bausch continued. “Padraig has made an enormous contribution to the success of SES since he joined in 1995, enabling SES to develop its strong financial profile and balance sheet and grow into its worldwide leading position. I wish Karim all the best for his future endeavors and Padraig for his well-deserved retirement.”