Alain Bellemare faces what is no doubt the greatest test of his professional career.
The new president and chief executive of Bombardier Inc. arrives at the most critical juncture in the company's history. The plane and train manufacturer is bleeding cash, struggling with the fallout from delays and cost overruns on two key new jet programs. Its image as a well-managed corporation able to deliver on its promises is in tatters. Investors are furious at the dramatic decline of the stock price.
The 53-year-old Mr. Bellemare – a former rising star at U.S. industrial giant United Technologies Corp. – has to work under the watchful eye of his predecessor Pierre Beaudoin, who is taking on the newly created position of executive chairman, meaning a chairman who gets involved in the day-to-day running of operations.
Clearly not a job for the faint of heart. But Mr. Bellemare's experience as a successful aerospace executive – including a stint as president of UTC's Pratt & Whitney Canada unit – stands him in good stead and gives him clout as the outsider tasked with turning around an ailing Bombardier and instilling a new, dynamic corporate culture.
"His CV looks good," Canaccord Genuity analyst David Tyerman said in an e-mail. Mr. Bellemare supervised the development of P&W's critical PurePower geared turbofan engine and the integration of aerospace components giant Goodrich, acquired in 2011 for $16.5-billion (U.S.), Mr. Tyerman said.
"The challenges [at Bombardier] include completing the development programs and improving profitability," he said.
UTC and Bombardier have a close working relationship.
P&W is supplying the new, quiet and fuel-efficient engines for Bombardier's new C Series passenger jet, the high-risk bet by Mr. Beaudoin that the company can play in the big leagues against Airbus SAS and Boeing Co.
UTC divisions Hamilton Sundstrand and Goodrich are also major suppliers of aerospace components to Bombardier.
"We believe this announcement will be positively perceived because of the Street's lack of confidence in current management and Mr. Bellemare's strong background," Desjardins Securities analyst Benoit Poirier said in a research note Thursday.
"Pierre knows Alain well," McGill management professor Karl Moore said, adding that Mr. Beaudoin is still very much in the picture.
Mr. Bellemare, a native Quebecker, lived through a spell of corporate turmoil while at UTC.
Last November, UTC head Louis Chenevert – also a Quebecker and something of a mentor to Mr. Bellemare – resigned abruptly amid board concerns he was not involved enough in the company. Two weeks before his departure, he made a detour during a business trip to inspect construction of his 33-metre yacht in Taiwan, according to news reports.
Not long after, at the end of January, Mr. Bellemare resigned in a restructuring at Hartford, Conn.-based UTC that eliminated his position.
At Pratt & Whitney Canada between 2002 and 2008, he oversaw as president a highly productive period of rapid growth and expansion. He presided over the launch of the PW600 class of jet engines for very light aircraft.
Mr. Bellemare joined P&W Canada as vice-president of manufacturing in 1996. Before that, he did manufacturing and engineering stints at Kraft Canada and Crown, Cork & Seal Canada, a maker of metal beverage and food cans.
He has a pilot's licence, and in 2004 McGill publication he said that as a child he dreamed of a career as either a professional hockey player or a pilot.
Asked what else he would have done had he not taken the career path he did, he replied: "I am very sensitive to people's suffering and needs; I would most probably be a doctor today."