Four CEOs in its short lifetime. Does the great ship Orbex now have a captain that can sail her through the murky waters of UK space?9th Feb 2024
The UK space landscape has given us plenty to write about to date and each and every time we do so it simply leads to more questions and speculation. But not one single company (possibly with the exception of Virgin Orbit during their short-lived time as a launch provider) has given us more to write about and often speculate than Orbital Express Launch Ltd. (Orbex).
Orbex – great potential but wrong strategy
There’s a whole host of reasons for this and one of the early topics we covered quite extensively was the co-founder and CEO Chris Larmour. Not because Chris was inexperienced in the field, but because under his leadership the company was intensely secretive, paraded prototype rocket models as the real thing, made multiple questionable announcements that were very easily debunked, but mostly because he appeared to come out of nowhere and his Linkedin profile had huge gaps in it that led us to speculate that he was from a Military Intelligence background. And they blocked us on X (Twitter) for asking sensible and logical questions.
Chris was at the helm of that particular ship up until he stepped down in April 2023. By that time there was no real sign of progress with their launch vehicle after five (?) years of “work”.
Upon Mr. Larmour’s departure, his co-founder and Chief Development Officer, Kristian Von Bengtson, then stepped up as interim CEO.
Then in May 2023, Martin Coates was announced as the company’s new CEO. Martin wasn’t new to the company having served as a board member from 2015 until 2018. In all fairness, he was trotted out as an interim CEO, and he does still appear as a Director on Companies House. He also appears as a Director on 16 other companies. Many of which are inactive.
Philip Chambers – new hope for Orbex?
Orbex have now announced the appointment of their FOURTH CEO in less than a year, as well as a newly appointed Chairman.
On 8th January 2024, Philip Chambers was announced as the new CEO of Orbital Express Launch Ltd. and Miguel Bello Mora as the new Executive Chairman of the Board.
Chambers is touted as a scale-up expert with two decades of experience with companies such as Gumtree. However, what makes his appointment interesting is that he is actually already an investor in Orbex and has been so since its Series C funding round. So, this wasn’t what you would could a headhunted role, but rather a situation where the existing investors are now making moves to protect their investment. The same applies to the newly appointed Chair, who was a founder and CEO of Deimos who are also invested in the company.
So, whatever brought about the new appointments at the helm of the company, it certainly didn’t reach out to the experienced space industry for talent but it had instead instilled two of its key investors to safeguard their interests. An interesting – and potentially concerning – approach.