Americom Pie

 

 

 

A couple of years ago, the Americom name went away. That’s when owner SES S.A., having bought out GE’s stake via a creative asset & cash transaction, decided to combine Americom’s Princeton-based operation with the New Skies organization in Den Haag. All got mashed up into a thing called SES WorldSkies.  A dozen employees were let go, including yours truly. All of them in the U.S.

Recently, just prior to the Satellite 2011 show in Washington, a call went out from Betzder Schlass, headquarters for SES S.A., that the companies are slated for a re-org and “right sizing.” Yeah, heads were going to roll. Officially, it was not about “headcount,” only a justification of expenses. The networking among long-time U.S. employees immediately preceding this news was darkly startling: never have I seen more activity from former Americom colleagues on LinkedIn.com.

Ironically, the corporate rattling started just as the Society of Satellite Professionals International announced their 12th induction into the SSPI Hall of Fame. Three of the seven inductees were past CEOs of SES Americom: Dean Olmstead, Ed Horowitz and Rob Bednarek.

To many “old pros,” this wasn’t really news. They’ve seen the writing on the wall and concluded there would be less and less people running the business in the U.S., with the possibility of shutting down the Princeton office once the lease expired in 2014.  Earlier this month, a couple of dozen people lost their jobs, the lion’s share in New Jersey. Some were happy to “get a package” and move on, others not so much.

The office in Den Haag will likely be shut down, with most of the jobs moving to Luxembourg. Princeton jobs will likely be moved to Washington. Remaining will be token offices to satisfy licensing requirements.

What does this say about the state of the satellite business in the U.S.? Are EchoStar and DirecTV the only true American commercial satellite operators? Both SES and Intelsat are based in Luxembourg, Telesat’s based in Ottawa, Canada, and Eutelsat’s in Paris. And they’ve all benefited from the U.S. government’s need for satellite bandwidth in the Middle East and Central Asia (Iraq & Afghanistan). How much of the profits from U.S. sources, commercial and government, are used toward economic benefit in the U.S.? Perhaps a few satellite builds with Space Systems/Loral and Orbital Sciences.

Makes for an interesting argument. Bring it.

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