SES announced earlier this year that Karim Michel Sabbagh would step down in April as president and CEO. Credit: SpaceNews/Kate Patterson.

WASHINGTON — Karim Michel Sabbagh, the departing CEO of satellite fleet operator SES, will return to the United Arab Emirates to lead a cybersecurity company headquartered there.

DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity company with research and development centers in Canada, Finland and China, announced Sabbagh’s hire March 5. He will join the company as CEO in April, splitting leadership responsibilities with DarkMatter’s founder Faisal Al Bannai.

“It is exciting for me to return to the vibrant Middle East region having spent a number of years away, and to lead one of only a handful of full-service cyber security firms present in the world today,” Sabbagh said in a statement. “I look forward to contributing to building a global cyber security powerhouse in arguably the most significant industry of our time.”

Sabbagh left the UAE to lead SES at its Luxembourg headquarters in 2014. He previously worked at the global consulting firm Booz & Co. in Dubai for more than 15 years.

SES announced earlier this year that Sabbagh would leave the company in April and be replaced by Steve Collar, previously CEO of O3b Networks. SES took full ownership of O3b Networks and its constellation of high-throughput, medium Earth orbit (MEO) connectivity satellites in 2016.  Last year, SES placed an order with Boeing for seven advanced MEO satellites called O3b mPower. SES is launching four more first-generation O3b satellites from Thales Alenia Space March 9 on an Arianespace Soyuz, expanding the constellation to 16 satellites.

DarkMatter described the addition of Sabbagh as a means to further the company’s international presence.

“As we have set our foothold in UAE, and begun to plan for regional and global expansion, the company will continue to evolve to support its vision, and build its competencies,” Al Bannai said in a statement. “We have attracted exceptional talent from inception, and with every addition, we have strengthened our ability to achieve our goals.”

Al Bannai said he is splitting his job in two, with Sabbagh becoming CEO to “take responsibility for the business,” and him becoming managing director “to focus on the strategic direction and oversight of the firm.”

“It has taken some time to find the right fit, and in Karim Sabbagh I believe we have found an outstanding professional who will make a great addition to DarkMatter,” he said.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...