First Solar Has A New CEO, Robert J. Gillette

robert gillette first solar

First Solar has announced its new CEO will be Robert Gillette, former CEO of Honeywell Aerospace. He starts October 1st, taking over for departing CEO Michael Ahearn. 

Ahearn announced he was stepping down in April, saying, “We are rapidly reaching the point where the evolution of the energy industry will be constrained not by technology or product costs, but rather by policies, programs and institutions that cannot adapt rapidly to the innovations that are occurring in clean energy.”

Gillette comes in at a rather bad time. Polysilicon prices have been falling, putting a lot of pressure on First Solar who makes their thin film panels out of cadmium telluride. Analysts have been saying all year that First Solar is going to face serious competition, and most think the stock is overpriced.

The solar industry at large faces serious headwinds. There is an oversupply of panels, and prices are expected to fall well into 2010, squeezing margins.

If those troubles weren’t enough, Ahern’s excellent tenure at First Solar makes the job difficult for anyone to follow. Under Ahearn’s watch, the company beat Wall Street’s estimates quarter after quarter.

image: seaonline


Press Release:

TEMPE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sep. 3, 2009– First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq:FSLR) today announced that Robert J. Gillette has been appointed chief executive officer, succeeding Mike Ahearn.

Mr. Gillette brings a wealth of experience to this position, having spent the last four and a half years as the CEO and president of Honeywell Aerospace, Honeywell International’s most profitable business group with current sales of more than $12 billion annually. In this role, he led more than 40,000 associates at nearly 100 worldwide manufacturing and service sites.

In welcoming Mr. Gillette to First Solar, Mr. Ahearn said, “I compliment the Board of Directors and the search committee for identifying and bringing to First Solar an executive possessing a unique combination of skills and experiences that make him an ideal leader for First Solar in the next wave of our growth.”

Mr. Gillette joined Honeywell in 1996 and has served in a number of senior management positions, including president and CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems and president of Honeywell Turbo Technologies. Prior to joining Honeywell, Mr. Gillette spent over 10 years at General Electric where he served in numerous senior management positions.

“Rob has a track record of fostering innovation and bringing new technologies and products to market. He has built organizational capability to enable businesses to scale in complex and geographically diverse markets and he has worked extensively in global markets, including Europe, Asia and South America,” said Mr. Ahearn. “He has demonstrated a leadership style that meshes well with our core values and will enable him to form strong working relationships with our management team.”

“This is a unique opportunity to join a leader in what promises to be one of the most important industries of the 21st century,” said Mr. Gillette. “I am excited to lead First Solar through the next phase of its growth.”

Mr. Gillette will assume his duties as CEO and join the Board of Directors effective October 1, 2009. As previously announced, Mr. Ahearn will continue to serve in the full-time position of executive chairman.


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