Iridium rises again after a decade
Iridium Satellite – once a by-word for the excesses of the 1990s tech bubble - has re-emerged as a publicly traded company.
The shareholders of New York based public shell company GHL Acquisition approved a €272 million acquisition of Iridium this week.
GHL, which has been trading on the American Stock Exchange, has now been listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol "IRDM" and re-branded Iridium Communications. It will trade from September 29.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch said that the transaction allowed Iridium the financial foundation needed to fund the launch of a new satellite network into space planned for 2014. “The merger is really a huge milestone for the company,” he added.
The new entity is seeking to raise €109m million through a share offering which will go towards building the new satellite constellation, which will reportedly cost €1.8 billion.
Iridium was a spin off venture spawned by Motorola in 1997. After much hype and VC funding it declared bankruptcy two years later after failing to attract a significant amount of subscribers. At its demise Iridium reported €4 billion in losses, including a €2.3 billion loss for Motorola.
It then re-emerged in 2000 after private investors bought its assets for €17 million, led by Dan Colussy, a former president of Pan American World Airways as well as president and CEO of Canadian Pacific Air Lines and aerospace company UNC Inc
Iridium's phone service is powered by a network of 66 in-orbit satellites, with the US Defense Department as its largest customer.
Earlier this year, the company won a €14.8 million contract from the US navy to expand the reach of its network and develop different-size handsets. According to its SEC filing, Iridium had around 347,000 subscribers at the end of the last financial year.
Iridium is based in Bethesda, but maintains its business operations in Tempe, employing about 200 workers through its connections with Boeing Co., which controls the satellite network, and another group at a facility in the Arizona State University Research Park.