New Intelsat CEO builds out leadership team

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TAMPA, Fla. — Intelsat announced financial, commercial and aviation leadership changes May 5 to guide the satellite operator’s post-bankruptcy future.

The executive appointments come a month after former Raytheon executive David Wajsgras took over as CEO, replacing Stephen Spengler who had been at the helm for nearly seven years.

Anthony (Toby) O’Brien, a former chief financial officer at Raytheon, was appointed to the same role at Intelsat.

O’Brien had joined Raytheon as CFO in 2015 to replace Wajsgras, who was promoted to head of the company’s intelligence unit at the time.

Intelsat CFO Toby O’Brien

While Wajsgras left Raytheon in 2020 after it merged with United Technologies to join a private equity firm, O’Brien stayed on as CFO of the combined group.

At Intelsat, O’Brien will oversee the $7 billion debt the company still has on its books after emerging from bankruptcy Feb. 23, reduced from $16 billion following a long-running restructuring process that started May 2020.

O’Brien replaces David Tolley as Intelsat CFO. 

Intelsat also named Jeff Sare May 5 as president of its commercial aviation division to replace responsibilities previously held by John Wade.

Wade joined Intelsat at the end of 2020 — while the operator was still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — when the company bought the commercial aviation part of Gogo’s inflight connectivity business. 

According to his LinkedIn profile, he remained as Gogo’s president of commercial aviation until he left Intelsat in January.

Sare was previously vice president and connectivity solutions business segment leader at Panasonic Avionics, which serves an inflight connectivity market that Intelsat has said will be important for its future growth.

Fierce competition in the inflight connectivity market is ramping up as SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network announces incoming services on airlines.

Intelsat named Clay McConnell as senior vice president of corporate communications and marketing as part of the leadership changes. McConnell is a former director of corporate communications at Delta Airlines, and has also been head of communications for Airbus Americas.

Intelsat also said May 5 it has promoted chief services officer Michael DeMarco to chief commercial officer to replace Samer Halawi, who announced plans to resign in December after joining Intelsat in January 2018.

Intelsat ordered two software-defined satellites from Thales Alenia Space Jan. 12 as part of a post-restructuring growth strategy that, according to Halawi in October, could include the operator’s own low Earth orbit constellation.

The IS-41 and IS-44 satellites are slated to launch in 2025 to provide commercial and government mobility services and cellular backhaul across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Helping to fund these growth plans are nearly $5 billion in proceeds that Intelsat expects to receive from clearing C-band spectrum for terrestrial cellular operators. 

However, satellite operator SES is disputing Intelsat’s share of the proceeds amid ongoing legal action before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.