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Local space industry vet takes reins as UrtheCast CEO

Don Osborne begins top job at space-imaging company in July
Don Osborne is the former president of MDA's information systems groups. He takes over the CEO job at UrtheCast in July | Photo: Rob Kruyt

A local space industry veteran who headed Canadian operations for the maker of the Canadarm has been named CEO of Vancouver-based UrtheCast Corp. (TSX: UR).

Don Osborne, the former president of MDA’s information systems group, starts work July 5 as the space-imaging firm’s fourth CEO since 2015.

"UrtheCast has a well-deserved reputation for innovation in its products and services, and I look forward to working with the UrtheCast team and its partners around the world to build on the potential that exists within the Company," Osborne said in a June 19 statement.

Last year MDA, previously known as MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, became a subsidiary of the newly created Maxar Technologies Ltd. (TSX:MAXR) as the Canadian aerospace firm sought to re-incorporate in the U.S.

Osborne left MDA in October 2017, shortly after it completed its US$2.4 billion acquisition of Colorado-based DigitalGlobe Inc.

Meanwhile, UrtheCast faced uncertainty earlier this spring about whether it would still be operating in a year’s time.

The company acknowledged in April it couldn’t guarantee its current cash flow from operations would be sufficient enough to cover its commitments, obligations and operating costs for the next 12 months.

As of April 30 the company had $4.8 million cash on hand, down from $7.5 million a month earlier.

UrtheCast’s most recent financial results revealed revenue dropped from $111.3 million in the 2016 fiscal year to $40.4 million in 2017.

But the company announced in May it had secured a loan worth $142 million and closed a $34.4-million private placement.

During the bout of financial uncertainty, co-founder and CEO Wayne Larson departed the company.

Board member Gregory Nordal served as interim CEO from March to May before deciding not to renew his three-month term.

Nordal is among three boardroom members not be seeking re-election at a shareholders meeting next week.

Chairman Tye Burt and director Letitia (Tish) Long, the former head of a U.S. intelligence agency, are also not seeking re-election.

Osborne will not join the company until the week after the shareholders meeting.

An engineer by trade and a native of Montreal, he began his career in the 1980s at Spar Aerospace.

“I recognized pretty quickly that I was going to be a relatively average engineer in a pool of extremely talented engineers,” he told Business in Vancouver in June 2017.

“At the same time when I was hanging out with the engineers, all they could do was criticize management, so I decided to go back to school and get an MBA.”

Osborne began managing a manufacturing engineering team at Spar once he earned a second degree from McGill University.

After a series of mergers, acquisitions and stops at different aerospace firms throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Osborne began running MDA’s Montreal operations in 2009.

He, his wife and their two children eventually relocated to MDA’s head office in Vancouver, where Osborne oversaw the managers in charge of the Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto offices.

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