The ink is not dry on the deal for SunPower to acquire SolarWorld Americas, and regulatory approval has not yet been secured. But there are already major changes at the company which has championed U.S. cell and module manufacturing through three major trade cases.
Yesterday, SolarWorld announced that President and CEO Jürgen Stein, who led the company through its pursuit of global trade relief for the few remaining U.S. cell and module makers under the Section 201 process, was stepping down.
Stein came from German parent company SolarWorld AG to replace former CEO Mukesh Dulani in 2017, and had only been in his role a few months when SolarWorld Americas decided to join Suniva as a proponent in the Section 201 investigation, which earned him and the company the antagonism of much of the industry.
Stein was the third CEO to lead SolarWorld Americas through a contentious trade fight, with CEO Gordon Brinser leading the company in the 2012 anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigation, and Dulani seeing the company through the 2014 AD/CVD process.
John Boken steps in
Stein will be replaced by John Boken as interim CEO, in what SolarWorld Americas is calling a “pre-integration management transition”. Boken is a member of SolarWorld’s board but also a senior managing director with Zolfo Cooper, a restructuring firm.
Boken’s bio on the Zolfo Cooper site notes that he has personally led more than 75 restructuring projects in a range of industries, including oil and gas conglomerate Flying J and Southern California Edison.
A SolarWorld press statement explains that Boken “will lead SolarWorld Americas integration planning team and direct efforts of the SolarWorld Americas management team and advisors to facilitate the close of the SunPower transaction”.
And while SunPower has said that it plans to utilize SolarWorld’s Oregon factory to produce its P-Series modules as well as legacy SolarWorld products, Boken’s experience appears to be more in stripping down unprofitable companies.
According to the Zolfo Cooper website:
“John’s client assignments often require the development and implementation of a multi-pronged turnaround and restructuring strategy with a focus on improving operating performance, shutting down unprofitable operations, disposing of non-core assets and “right-sizing” the balance sheet to facilitate future growth.”
Stein will remain in a leadership advisory role through June 30, 2018, and SolarWorld notes that this will including supporting Boken and the management team on “various operating initiatives, along with ongoing activities relating to the company’s past trade cases”.