Management changes at Austal USA as Rella resignation fuels rumor mill

Austal launchJUNE 27, 2012 — Austal has confirmed that Austal USA President and COO Joe Rella resigned last Friday, June 22, 2012. On Monday, June 25, the Austal USA Board named CFO Brian Leathers interim President of Austal USA and Mr. Craig Perciavalle as Senior VP Shipyard Operations.

Austal CEO Andrew Bellamy called the transition a "natural step" and said "We are moving from infrastructure growth to a focus of putting this cutting-edge yard to work meeting the terms of our Littoral Combat Ship and Joint High Speed Vessel contracts and strengthening the overall management of operations."

Natural step or no, Austal's delay in confirming Mr. Rella's resignation fueled the rumor mill. Shipbuilding guru Tim Colton reporting that the "hot rumor is that a majority interest in the shipyard is being sold to GD, with ex-BIW President Dugan Shipway coming in as interim President." Those remarks were rapidly picked up in the Mobile, Alabama, local media. However the Press Register today reported a General Dynamics spokesman as saying that "as a matter of policy, we don't comment on rumors or speculation about acquisition-related matters."

As of this morning, the shipbuilder had not made any statement on the speculation on the Australian Securites Exchange where it is listed under ticker symbol ASB.

Meantime, new interim President Brian Leathers says: "We have much to do. Austal is under contract with the U.S. Navy to build nine Spearhead-class Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) under a 10-ship, $1.6 billion contract, and five Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships, four of which are part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract. The people, the plant and the processes are in place and Austal USA will be busy building ships for years to come."

"The Board of Directors is currently conducting a leadership search, and a new President of Austal USA will be announced in due course" said Mr. Bellamy, "but there is a strong team in place already, and we will take our time picking a candidate who will best serve the company, our naval customers and the community that supports our Mobile, Alabama facility."

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