Alan Klapmeier Stepping Aside as Cirrus CEO
December 18, 2008 — On February 1, 2009, Cirrus Design will have a new chief executive officer as current CEO Alan Klapmeier is choosing to focus on more strategic company goals and Brent Wouters, current chief operation officer, will become CEO. Klapmeier, who will remain as chairman of the board, categorizes the change of title not as stepping down, but as promoting Wouter, who earlier this year became COO.
“For a long time my role has been primarily externally focused and on corporate strategy,” Klapmeier said in a discussion with EAA Thursday afternoon. “As the company has grown, Brent and Dale (Klapmeier, Alan’s brother) have been doing most of the internal decision-making. So we thought we would have a low-key transition. This is the way we really work anyway.”
What effect the move has on the company remains to be seen, but Klapmeier says the struggling economy has caused Cirrus to be focused internally for the last couple of months regarding employees, costs, sales, etc. “We’ve got a pretty good handle on all those things,” he said. “I think we’re better positioned than a lot of companies. So I don’t feel I need to stay there and keep doing that.”
It’s not completely accurate, Klapmeier said, to say he is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations. “I’m not the one, and frankly I never have been the one, who was down on the floor. It’s not what I do. I’m still going to be involved every day, just not on the internal day-to-day things. I’m not being trivial, it’s just not what I do.”
The company’s current strategic direction is being affected more by the economy, not his change of title at Cirrus, Klapmeier explained. “The Vision Jet remains our number one priority. With the trouble in the economy, that means we have less cash to spend on all the other projects, meaning that lots of other projects will be delayed. As we juggle internal priorities, we’ve got to be making some hard choices right now. Unfortunately that includes the light-sport aircraft, includes changes to the current models – it touches everything.”
Wouters served as executive vice president and CFO since 2002. He has extensive aviation industry experience, with an M.B.A., a Master’s Degree of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and a B.A. in math and physics. Prior to joining Cirrus, Wouters was CFO for International Payment Services, an $80 million private equity-backed payment processing company. His aviation career began at Delta Air Lines testing and developing commercial flight simulators as an aircraft engineer. Wouters also played a key role in designing the software used by Lockheed Martin in the production of the F-22 fighter jet.
“Brent’s been with us for a long time and had been promoted to president and chief operating officer earlier this year,” Klapmeier said. “One of the unique things about Brent that tends to go unnoticed, since he came from being the CFO, is that he’s actually an aeronautical engineer.
“We feel very good about the entire management team. As the company has grown we continually make moves inside about how we manage, how we get the day-to-day stuff done.”
One external initiative Klapmeier wants to focus on is helping to work on GA’s public image, saying that the GA industry has failed to properly tell its story to the public. “It is our responsibility to get out there and talk to the general news media, and I have offered myself for that role since I have a fairly unique position in the industry right now.”