Mark Dankberg, a founder of Viasat Inc. and its chairman and CEO for most of its 36-year existence, has retaken the reins of the Carlsbad-based satellite services company.
Rick Baldridge, who served as president and CEO since November 2020, has moved into the newly created job of vice chairman. The moves were effective July 1.
Baldridge, 64, is charged with bringing Viasat’s pending $7.3 billion acquisition of U.K.-based Inmarsat to completion, and charged with planning how the two companies will best fit together. Viasat’s goal is to wrap up the acquisition by Dec. 31. He will also evaluate other strategic and organizational initiatives.
Dankberg, 67, served as executive chairman of Viasat (NASDAQ: VSAT) during the time that Baldridge was CEO. He founded Viasat with two others in 1986, after serving as an executive at Linkabit (a legendary San Diego tech company that was also a precursor to Qualcomm). Dankberg has co-authored several military standards on satellite networking, holds a number of patents in communications and satellite networking technologies, and oversaw Viasat’s rapid growth into a global company. He received the Founders Award as part of the San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO Awards in 2013.
“Today’s moves allow us to optimize the contributions of Viasat’s foundational leaders in Mark and Rick, and reflect the company’s commitment to a thoroughly planned and executed integration with Inmarsat that will position us to achieve the financial and operational results enabled by the transaction,” said Sean Pak, lead independent director of Viasat, in a statement issued June 29.
“Through their close and selfless partnership, Mark and Rick have created and led an exceptional management team that is delivering outstanding growth in the satellite industry.”
Dankberg and Baldridge have a history of working closely. When Baldridge was promoted to CEO in 2020, the company characterized the move as formalizing an informal leadership arrangement that dated back a few years.
Going forward, Kevin Harkenrider will be Dankberg’s chief operating officer. Harkenrider, 66, was promoted to the role in 2021.
Viasat provides government, military, consumer and commercial satellite communication services — including in-flight internet for airlines. It also produces hardware.
An Acquisition in the Works
Viasat stockholders approved the proposed acquisition of Inmarsat during a special meeting on June 21. Viasat said it expects the deal to close before the year is over. The transaction still needs regulatory approvals and clearances. Viasat plans to pay $850 million in cash and approximately 46.36 million shares of Viasat stock, as well as assume Inmarsat’s debt.
Viasat has been working to make the merger more attractive to the British government, announcing an agreement in March. The Carlsbad company pledged to do several things that will benefit the U.K. economy, including maintaining procurement and jobs in the country. It plans to create of a U.K. R&D Center of Excellence.
Viasat’s other major initiative is the launch of three high-speed communications satellites with nearly worldwide coverage. It expects to launch the first of its ViaSat-3 satellites, serving the Americas, late in the third quarter of this year, and activate commercial service in early 2023. A second satellite is expected to launch within six months of the first.
The leadership changes were announced before the market opened on June 29. Shares of Viasat, which closed at $31.40 the previous day, fell to $30.68. At the end of July 5, shares reached $28.20. The stock’s 52-week range is $68.76 to $26.63.
In late May, Viasat reported $2.79 billion in revenue in the fiscal year ended March 31, up 23% from $2.26 billion the previous year. It produced a net loss of $15.5 million, down from net income of $3.7 million in the previous fiscal year.
For the fourth quarter, Viasat reported a net loss of $29.2 million on revenue of $702 million. Analysts collectively expected revenue of $724 million. Ryan Koontz, an analyst with Needham & Co. LLC, called Viasat’s quarterly results “lighter than expected.” Organic growth for the quarter was 8% year over year. Total revenue and non-GAAP earnings per share were 3% and 16 cents below analyst consensus, he wrote.
While dropping his price target to $58 from $66, Koontz nevertheless rated the stock as a Buy in a May 26 research note.
“We see the current VSAT investment cycle positioning the company for meaningful benefits when [Viasat-3] reaches commercial operation in F4Q23,” the analyst wrote.