ATS shareholders find their tonic
Good news for the suffering shareholders of ATS Automation (ATA:TSX): the team that pulled off the successful proxy battle has found someone to run the place, just two months after taking control. A good fellow named Anthony “Tony” Caputo.
According to Paradigm Capital’s research note yesterday, Mr. Caputo has responsible for turning around “another tech company” (Spar Aeropace) and selling it to L-3 Communications:
“ATS Automation (ATA-T)
Appoints CEO with High Tech Turnaround Experience-“Just What the Doctor Ordered”
ATS announced that it has appointed Mr. Anthony Caputo as CEO of ATS and the Automation
System Group. Mr. Caputo has a strong resume having been accredited with turning around
Spar Aerospace and selling the company to L3 Communications. Mr. Caputo remained at L3
and became COO, President, and Corporate Vice-President of L3. We view him as a very
strong individual to head ATS, as his direct experience and success in turning around hightech
manufacturing entities in a Canadian setting is “Just What the Doctor Ordered”. This
appointment also points directly to the swift and precise decisions being made by the new
board at ATS and gives us huge confidence that the underlying hidden value of ATS
Automation Systems Group and Photowatt can be brought to surface. We remain a Buy with
a one year share price target of $10.00”
The passage of time has a way of changing history, and that’s what is happening here as well. Or, just maybe, I’m getting older. A very smart man named Colin D. Watson turned around Spar Aerospace in the late 1990s. He dealt with a crippling satellite lawsuit, dispatched the heralded Canadarm to Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA:TSX), sold off pieces or otherwise shut the money-losing California-based Comstream division, and turned Spar Aerospace into a single division (known as Spar Aviation) with a bunch of cash.
Hedge funds (back when the phrase was a novelty) were involved there as well, just as with ATS. This was Canada’s first look at Crooner Eric Rosenfeld, now quite in/famous for his activist investing under the Crescendo brand.
Spar Aviation did a variety of RNO and upgrade services for 737s and C-130s. Big paint shop in Edmonton as I recall. Tony Caputo was the head of the RNO division. Once Mr. Watson dealt with the divisions, Spar Aviation lived a solo life. Mr. Caputo took charge (Mr. Watson assumed a board role) for a few years before finally selling to L-3.
Mr. Caputo did a good job with the aviation business, but the satellite, communications and space business success (most of the true value creation) was largely the result of the efforts of Mr. Watson and his team. Which is not to say that the Aviation business didn’t produce great profits and earn a decent multiple on the L3 exit.
ATS shareholders, and the Waterloo community, will be well served by Mr. Caputo’s arrival.