Inmarsat to split top roles at end of year

SATELLITE owner and operator Inmarsat announced a long-expected restructuring of its top team to split the chief executive and chairman roles yesterday.

Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s senior vice president of its Inmarsat Enterprises business, will become its new group chief executive from January 2012. He replaces Andrew Sukawaty, who has led FTSE 350-ranked Inmarsat as chairman since 2003 and been joint chair and chief executive since March 2004.

Sukawaty will become executive chairman and remain in post for at least two years, the company said.

Sukawaty said Pearce was “extremely well prepared to head our experienced management team and drive the company forward into its next stage of growth”.

The news follows the sale of about 30 per cent of Inmarsat held by US private equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners. It had supported Sukawaty holding both roles and in 2009 asked him to commit to staying in the combined position until at least 2012.

Harbinger’s stance reflects US corporate governance as 60 per cent of US listed companies still combine the two leadership roles. In contrast, just three per cent of UK listed firms combine the roles as it contravenes the Corporate Governance Code.

Sukawaty led Inmarsat through its 2005 listing and takeover of distributor Stratos in 2009. Pearce has spent six years with Inmarsat and also played a critical role in the Stratos deal.