Rajeev Suri, the former head of Nokia, has been named as chief executive of Inmarsat little more than a year after the British satellite company was taken private by Apax and Warburg Pincus for $6bn.
Suri, who spent 25 years at Nokia and led its acquisitions of rivals Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, replaces Inmarsat veteran Rupert Pearce, who spent nine years as chief and 16 years with the group overall.
The appointment comes ahead of a major investment programme at the company, which plans to launch seven new satellites into orbit over the next three years and overhaul its ground network to support different types of satellite.
The change also comes against a backdrop of increased activity in the sector with Starlink, run by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Blue Origin, backed by Jeff Bezos, targeting the communications industry with low-earth orbit satellite launches. OneWeb, another ambitious new satellite player, was rescued from bankruptcy last year by the UK government and Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal.
Suri said: “I am very excited to join Inmarsat, and to work closely with such skilled people, at such an important moment for the company and the satellite communications industry.”
His experience in consolidating the telecoms equipment market could also come into play in the fragmented and financially parlous satellite sector, where there are still dozens of smaller operators, including the UK’s Avanti.
Some established companies have started acquiring industry-specific partners with Viasat buying remote communications player RigNet in December for $222m, Intelsat acquiring in-flight connectivity company Gogo for $400m last year and Eutelsat paying £38m to acquire UK-based satellite broadband company bigblu in September.
Suri, who left Nokia last year as the company struggled with product issues and a plunging share price, will start at Inmarsat next week.
The Indian-born executive has worked as an adviser to Warburg Pincus in the past. Nokia also worked with Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat to build a ground network for the European Aviation Network that provides in-flight connectivity during his time as chief executive.
However, Pekka Lundmark, his successor at the Finnish company, has ditched Suri’s “end-to-end” strategy that involved Nokia trying to sell an entire suite of products to customers covering mobile masts to software.