SolarWorld names new CEO ahead of SunPower aquisition
The CEO of SolarWorld, the nation's largest solar panel company, stepped down today ahead of an acquisition by a California-based competitor.
On Monday, May 14, SolarWorld announced that its president and chief executive Juergen Stein had moved to a "full-time advisory position" within the company, which is based in Hillsboro. He'll stay with the company through June, according to the company.
In his place, SolarWorld board member John Boken will take over as interim CEO, the company said. Boken is the senior managering director at Zolfo Cooper LLC.
In April, SunPower Corp., based in San Jose, announced it would be purchasing the Hillsboro company for an undisclosed amount after the company went through a series of layoffs last year.
According to SolarWorld, Stein will work with Boken and the company's management team "on various initiatives, along with ongoing activities relating to the company's past trade cases."
"Our team remains excited about the future of SolarWorld Americas as an integral part of the SunPower operation," Stein said. "I believe that now is the right time for me to turn over the final phase of our sale process to John Boken, whose vast experience in transitional situations is perfectly suited to our leadership needs. We are fortunate that he is available to step into this role."
Boken will oversee day-to-day operations at SolarWorld and help facilitate the company's absorption into SunPower.
Boken has spent more than two decades in corporate restructuring.
SunPower's purchase of SolarWorld requires approval from regulators in both the U.S. and Germany. SolarWorld AG, SolarWorld's parent company, filed for insolvency in Germany last year.
In a statement released Monday, Boken said while the company is focused on the transition it will not slow down on its commitments to existing customers.
"We are making sure to devote appropriate energies to our day-to-day operations and customers, as we prepare everyone for the bright future that lies ahead for our business under SunPower's leadership and with access to its resources and technological expertise," he said. "I look forward to working with Juergen through the remaining steps of this process, leveraging his accomplishments, and continuing to benefit from his industry knowledge."
SolarWorld Americas has undergone massive hiring expansions and contractions in the past year, laying off hundreds last summer after SolarWorld AG's insolvency filing, before announcing in late fall it planned to hire 200 more.
The company lobbied hard for steep federal tariffs on foreign-made solar products. The company argued it needed harsher tariffs on foreign-made products in order to stay in business after Chinese competitors flooded the U.S. market with cheaper products, which hurt its ability to compete in the solar panel market. In January, the federal government announced it would impose a 30 percent tariff on foreign made products.
SunPower was a vocal opponent of SolarWorld's request. The company imports most of its solar products from Asia and Mexico where the cost of labor is cheaper.