Tom Choi steps down from ABS CEO position

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WASHINGTON — Tom Choi is leaving his position as CEO of ABS, a satellite fleet operator he co-founded in 2005.

In a post to the professional networking website LinkedIn, Choi said he will continue on the Bermuda-based company’s board of directors, but will transition out of his current role.

‘[T]he time of my servitude as CEO of ABS has come to an end. It was an incredible experience and a wonderful time. I believe after PanAmSat, ABS was one of the very few companies which were privately owned to reach a status of a Global Satellite Operator with customers and operations in every continent of the world,” he wrote.

ABS has six satellites providing television broadcast and internet services in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Choi started the company with the 2006 purchase of the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik-1 satellite, rebranded as ABS-1. ABS acquired satellites from South Korea’s KT Corp. and Mabuhay Satellite Corp. of the Philippines as the company built out its constellation.

“We began with buying existing in-orbit satellites then we raised over $200M in condosat financing to build ABS-2 and then we shocked the world by building all electric satellites which was dual-stacked (ABS-2A and ABS-3A) on a Falcon-9. We serve now over 1000 television stations and provide Gig[a]bits of IP transit,” Choi wrote.

A fast-rising operator, ABS has regularly grown revenue and Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, or EBITDA, by double-digit numbers over the past 10 years. Choi also founded Speedcast in 1999, a satellite services provider that spun out of AsiaSat in 2012 and is now one of the world’s largest buyers of satellite capacity.

Not one to mince words, Choi has vehemently argued against new low-Earth orbit systems as a dangerous source of radio-frequency interference and space debris. Choi has also swam counter to popular industry beliefs on the rise of national satellite operators — of which there are many in Asia and more on the way — saying that such nations have a right to control their own space assets and send revenue to their own governments rather than to a handful of global operators.

More recently, Choi called Intelsat and Intel’s C-band clearing proposal in the U.S. one that “could set a dangerous precedent” for similar behavior by other national regulators. Intelsat says the proposal is U.S.-specific.

ABS rescinded its last satellite order, ABS-8, after the U.S. Congress let the Export Import Bank’s charter expire, a political force majeure that botched a contract with Boeing. Ex-Im Bank reopened in December 2015, but still lacks a full board, and cannot finance projects over $10 million. ABS has yet to place a new order for ABS-8, but has described the cancellation as a blessing in disguise because of the announcement of ViaSat-3, against which Choi has said the original design for ABS-8 would have been uncompetitive.

London-based Permira banks owns ABS, having purchased the operator in 2010 for 184 million euros, or about $242 million. The private equity firm put ABS up for sale in 2016, but has yet to sell the company.