Satellite veteran Mark Rigolle appointed CEO amid ABS upheaval 

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TAMPA, Fla. — Satellite industry veteran Mark Rigolle is taking the helm of ABS after Amit Somani’s sudden departure early this year in the latest shake-up for the Dubai-based regional satellite operator, the company announced April 16.

Rigolle, most recently chief operating officer for the proposed Rivada Space Networks low Earth orbit constellation (LEO), will join ABS as CEO April 29.

Incoming ABS CEO Mark Rigolle. Credit: ABS

Somani left in January after less than two years with ABS for personal reasons, the company said, which recently changed its name from Asia Broadcast Satellite to Agility Beyond Space after moving headquarters from Hong Kong.

Somani had joined from Yahsat, a regional satellite operator also based in the United Arab Emirates.

ABS announced its rebranding in October 2023, saying it reflected a push toward building strategic, long-term relationships in the industry after recently coming under new ownership.

The geostationary satellite operator has not announced its new ownership structure and did not respond to requests for comment. 

British private equity firm Permira, which bought a majority stake in ABS in 2010 and first tried to sell the company about six years later, lists the operator as sold on its website but did not provide details about the deal.

In its latest earnings results Jan. 10, when ABS announced Somani’s departure, the company said it recorded increasing revenue from sales to other operators with satellites reaching the end of their design life. 

The company did not detail these arrangements. Total sales came in flat at $69 million for the year to Sept. 30.

ABS chair Parm Sandhu said in the earnings release that the company is in active partnership talks regarding its spectrum rights covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific “to unlock the hidden value in our holdings,” including two orbital slots with permission to beam military Ka-band radio waves.

ABS provides connectivity and broadband services over these regions with five satellites: ABS-2, ABS-2A, ABS-3A, ABS-4/Mobisat-1 and ABS-6.

Founded in 2005, the operator also moved company accounts from Bermuda to the UAE as part of its strategy refresh. 

Going through changes

Somani joined ABS as CEO in October 2022 to replace James Frownfelter, who took over from Jim Simpson in 2008 when he left after just a year in the role.

Rigolle’s career has also seen its fair share of changes. Before Rivada, he served as the chief financial officer for SES and was CEO of its medium Earth constellation O3b Networks. 

He also co-founded regional geostationary satellite operator Kacific and was CEO of LEO startup LeoSat until its collapse following a lack of investment.

“The exceptional breadth of his experience in our industry will enable him to hit the ground running,” Sandhu said in a statement.

“We look forward to benefiting from his leadership and from his insights into multi-orbit constellations during this time of rapid market evolution.” 

Rigolle noted he was joining ABS “at this pivotal time for the company and indeed the whole [fixed satellite services] industry,” as geostationary players face mounting competition from SpaceX’s sprawling LEO network.

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