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Alenia Gutting North American Business Unit, Fires CEO

Feb. 12, 2013 - 12:50PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER and TOM KINGTON   |   Comments
Alan Calegari, president and CEO of the Alenia's U.S. business, has been fired, along with many of the company's 60 U.S. employees.
Alan Calegari, president and CEO of the Alenia's U.S. business, has been fired, along with many of the company's 60 U.S. employees. (Alenia North America)
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WASHINGTON and ROME — Italy-based Alenia Aermacchi has fired the head of its North American aircraft business and plans to downsize its presence in the U.S. following the loss of two major Pentagon contracts.

Alan Calegari, the president and CEO of the Alenia’s U.S. business, was dismissed on Monday, according to sources, along with many of the company’s 60 U.S. employees. An Alenia spokesman in Rome confirmed Calegari’s departure on Tuesday and said a new CEO would be appointed within days.

The Alenia North American business falls under Alenia CEO Giuseppe Giordo in Rome.

Ben Stone — who served as Alenia North America chief of staff under Giordo from 2005 to 2010 and more recently as Alenia Aermacchi’s vice president for special projects — is expected to play a significant role in the realignment, sources said.

Sources said the move to scale back in Washington is intended to consolidate operations and save money following Alenia’s loss of two major U.S. Air Force contracts, one for 38 new C-27J cargo planes for the Air National Guard and the other for 20 remanufactured G222 aircraft for the Afghan Air Force.

“The company was sized for the C-27J contract and the G222 contract,” the Alenia spokesman said. “There will be a reduction but it is not closing, it remains on the market in the U.S., there is no withdrawal.”

Calegari had been president and CEO of the North American wing of the company for a little more than a year. He joined the company at a turbulent time after the U.S. Air Force had already planned to cancel the C-27J cargo program due to U.S. defense spending cuts.

Calegari’s firing comes amid a tumultuous 24 hours for Alenia and parent Finmeccanica, whose CEO, Guiseppe Orsi, was arrested Tuesday in connection with allegations of corruption at the firm involving the sale of helicopters to India. In addition, Bruno Spagnolini, the head of Finmeccanica helicopter unit AgustaWestland, was placed under house arrest.

Besides the C-27J and G222 deals, Alenia has been heavily pursuing the U.S. Air Force T-X jet trainer contract and had recently announced a partnership with General Dynamics.

A General Dynamics spokesman said the company does not anticipate any changes to its partnering agreement for the program in the wake of the downsizing plans.

Alenia still plans to display its T-100 cockpit demonstrator at a major Air Force Association trade show in Florida next week.

The spokesman said the company still plans to compete for the T-X program. Sources said much of the effort will now be lead out of Italy.

“All of Alenia is reducing staff, Italy included,” the spokesman said. “The change in the U.S. is linked to Alenia’s general organization; we are not offloading American staff and we are not cutting out the role of CEO. There is a full commitment to the U.S. market and the T-100.”

A U.S.-based Alenia spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

In 2008, Finmeccanica made a move to become a far larger player in the lucrative U.S. market, acquiring DRS technologies. DRS added former Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn as its new chief executive at the beginning of 2012 as part of a move to reorganize its North American assets under his leadership. The intent was to consolidate its business holdings to improve efficiency and provide a unified direction, Lynn told Defense News in a May interview.

“We need to pull things together and manage it from a single headquarters with a single set of priorities and a unified voice to our customers,” Lynn said.

At the time Lynn said that he anticipated completing the reorganization in 2013.

“We haven’t landed completely on names, but Finmeccanica itself has an overarching brand, and then AgustaWestland Helicopters, Alenia Aircraft and so on,” Lynn said. “We’ll have the same construct in the United States.”

But the decision to eliminate the business unit, instead of focusing on centralizing management of Finmeccanica’s North American properties, moves the company away from its original reorganization plan.

Analysts viewed that plan as an effort to fix a branding issue, as Finmeccanica’s name didn’t carry as much weight with the U.S. customer as other large contractors. The hiring of Lynn, a significant figure in defense circles, was meant to help elevate the company’s U.S. profile.

A spokesman for DRS in Washington could not provide a comment.

The name Alenia Aermacchi North America was bestowed on the company’s U.S. based subsidiary in April 2012. Previously the division was known as Alenia North America.

The change coincided with a reorganization of Finmeccanica’s aerospace business, and with the consolidation of Alenia Aermacchi from Alenia Aeronautica and its subsidiaries Alenia, Aermacchi and Alenia SIA.

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Zachary Fryer-Biggs contributed to this report

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