Not many industries need leaders that can focus on day-to-day issues while anticipating what the market will look like in 20 years.
“You got to know when to hold ’em [production], know when to fold ’em [close types], Know when to walk away [from a market] and know when to run.”
The great Kenny Rogers obviously was not talking about running an aircraft manufacturer, but it is a tougher job than being a professional gambler. Only a few industries need leaders that can focus on day-to-day issues and have the foresight to predict what the market will look like in 20 years. You also need to be able to play the cards that your predecessor left you.
In the last few weeks, both Bombardier and Embraer have announced that the heads of their businesses jet divisions are getting up from the table. Ernest Edwards is retiring from Embraer – and was clearly enjoying this prospect at NBAA 2013 – and Steve Ridolfi is moving up to senior vice president, strategy and mergers and acquisitions at Bombardier.
Edwards and Ridolfi have both played the game really well. Embraer has continued to grow, launch new aircraft and is clearly established as a leading business jet manufacturer, while Bombardier is working on numerous new aircraft and has secured large fleet orders from the likes of NetJets and VistaJet.
At the risk of torturing the analogy (and it have never stopped me before), there have been a lot of players at the OEM table in the last few years. Since 2006, the main six business jet manufacturers have had 14 different people heading them up. With Ridolfi moving, Jean Ronsvallon (who took over at Dassault in 2003) is the only one left who has been in his role for more than five years. You do have to question if that is too much change for a long-term industry.
Rogers’ song has one last bit of advice for new heads of aircraft manufacturers: “You never count your orders when you’re sitting’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for counting’ when the delivery is done.”
Shuffling the pack: recent business jet OEM heads
Beechcraft (Hawker Beechcraft/Raytheon)
2009+ Bill Boisture (excludes brief restructuring period)
2001-2009 Jim Schuster
Bombardier Business Aircraft
2014+ Éric Martel
2008-2014 Steve Ridolphi
2006-2008 Pierre Gabriel Cote
2011 Now Scott Ernest
2003-2011 Jack Pelton
Embraer Executive Jets
2014+ Marco Túlio Pellegrini
2011 2013 Ernest Edwards
2005-2011 Luis Carlos Affonso
2003-2013 Jean Ronsvallon
1995-2003 Jean-François Georges
2011+ Larry Flynn
2007-2011 Joe Lombardo (still EVP and CEO of General Dynamics)
2003-2007 Bryan Moss
Source: Corporate Jet Investor