Eclipse Aviation founder and CEO Vern Raburn stepped down as CEO of the company he founded in favour of company chairman, Roel Pieper, a Dutch IT entrepreneur.
Pieper, who becomes acting CEO, has been the non-executive chairman of Eclipse since early this year, after Etirc, an aviation firm he founded in Europe, invested $100 million in Eclipse. The investment allows Etric to hold a minority stake in Eclipse.
The surprise development was announced with the explanation that it was required under the ''terms of the commitment and agreements'' for a new round of financing for Eclipse Aviation, a pioneering very light jet (VLJ) manufacturer. The amount of the new funding remained undisclosed.
In a letter to employees, Raburn said, ''As you can imagine, this development came as quite a surprise to me and it saddens me more than I can tell you to have to leave Eclipse. I think you know that I am no quitter. But I have not had any choice but to accept the terms of an agreement that provides Eclipse the first funds in a new round of financing that will take the company to a cash-flow-positive position.''
At his end, Pieper also praised Raburn for the contributions made by him in starting the company and ensuring delivery of 230 Eclipse 500s since the aircraft received certification two years ago.''It is now time to take the company to the next level of growth and operational excellence and this is what the board has tasked me to do. I will work toward this goal in the coming period,''Pieper said.
Given a fresh round of controversies currently engulfing Eclipse, Pieper also clarified that the company's order book hadn't changed and that it ''will continue to grow.''
Pieper said that over the next few days, Eclipse would roll out a payment schedule that will take care of suppliers and deposit holders who have cancelled their orders and asked for refunds.
It is understood that Raburn will continue to advice Pieper at Eclipse and also assume the vice chairman's role at Pieper's Etirc Aviation where he will assist in the global expansion of the Eclipse 500.
Raburn said that he was proud of Eclipse's accomplishments, which includes nearly 30,000 fleet hours of accident free flight. The company has also delivered twice as many VLJs as Cessna, even though both the Citation Mustang and Eclipse 500 were certified at he same time in September 2006.
Raburn will continue to hold some equity in Eclipse, a company he launched 11 years ago.