Today’s show focuses exclusively on the aerospace sector, beginning with Drake Interplanetary. For years, the popular spaceship manufacturer courted controversy without their stock price suffering. Investors remained bullish on the brand thanks to strong sales and positive consumer sentiment. That changed last year following a damning exposé by the Terra Gazette that featured audio of Drake’s longtime CEO, Jan Dredge, claiming that the company had no responsibility to ensure their ships didn’t end up in outlaw hands.
Dredge’s comments were quickly condemned. In the scandal’s wake, Jan Dredge stepped down, citing a desire to spend more time with her family, but a flurry of negative press and the company’s sinking stock price were believed to be the real factors in this decision. Drake’s board of directors elected her son, Jon Dredge, to be interim CEO. As his temporary appointment stretched from weeks into months, some investors wondered whether the ‘interim’ title still applied.
At a contentious shareholders meeting late last year, Jon Dredge assured investors that he had no intentions of remaining in the position. He claimed the board of directors had compiled a shortlist of potential CEOs and that the interview process would begin shortly. Early this year, Drake called a press conference in Odyssa to reveal Anden Arden as their new CEO. A veteran aerospace industry executive, Arden has a reputation as a ‘fixer’. Although he led several companies through difficult transitions, he didn’t stick with them long term. His hiring sparked a debate among investors as to whether Arden was hired to usher in a new era at Drake Interplanetary, or to merely mend the current situation.
Now, Anden Arden joins us to share his vision for Drake, and how the release of the first ship under his leadership, the Vulture, fits into those plans.
Aaron Schere (AS): Welcome back to Kaizen.Anden Arden (AA): Always a pleasure to chat with you, Aaron. Thanks for giving me the chance to discuss the future of Drake Interplanetary.
AS: Congratulations on the new position.AA: Thank you. It’s both an honor and a great responsibility. The Dredge family did something truly incredible over the last century. Their commitment to providing affordable and accessible spacecraft for the working people of the UEE has been truly inspiring. It’s funny, my dad and uncle started their first hauling business with an old Cutlass.
AS: There’s no denying that Drake has had a tumultuous year and is dealing with pressing problems on a number of fronts. As the new CEO, what’s at the top of your to-do list?AA: Well, Aaron, first and foremost I want to continue the same vision of inclusiveness that Jan Dredge brought to the company throughout her years of service. To bring that same passion and dedication so Drake’s second century will be just as strong and memorable as its first. When I look at Drake’s current situation, I don’t see problems. I see opportunities. I made it abundantly clear to the board of directors that my focus would be to steer the company into its strengths.
AS: In your opinion, what are those strengths?AA: Like I said before, Drake has a knack for creating affordable and durable ships. Yet, it’s the hardworking men and women that crisscross the Empire flying those ships that are my main concern. Without them, we’re just pushing metal. That’s why my first goal as CEO is to remind everyone that Drake has always been about the people. I will focus the company on manufacturing ships that are reliable, affordable, and empowering. It’s why the Vulture was the first ship released under my watch. It ticks all those boxes. In my opinion, the Vulture is the ideal Drake ship. It’s a practical, one-person salvage ship that empowers the operator to be their own boss. The perfect example of what happens when you combine technological innovation and Human ambition. Building ships that hit that sweet spot is a Drake specialty, and something I intend to continue.
AS: That’s a nice plug for the ship, but how much say did you have in its development and release?AA: Quite a lot, actually.
AS: There’s no denying that ship development is a long and arduous process. There were rumors that Jon Dredge had decided to ramp up production on a salvage ship long before you entered the picture. I guess I’m wondering about your specific involvement in bringing this ship to market?AA: When negotiations began to bring me onboard as CEO, the first thing I did was look at their upcoming slate of ships. I needed to see that the company as a whole was committed to getting back to their roots. Thankfully, the Vulture was not only the closest ship to being released, it also embodied many of the core principles of empowerment and independence that I wanted to focus on. I pushed the teams to have the ship released as soon as possible. That way, when I did the news circuit to discuss my new position, I could back up my words with actions and point to a ship that symbolized what I believed was the future of the company.
AS: Were you surprised when you landed the job?AA: Not at all. From very early on in the process, the directors made it abundantly clear that they were serious about hiring me. I believed them, and now we’re here.
AS: I ask because there were rumors that both Jan and Jon Dredge opposed your appointment.AA: In my experience, it’s best not to pay attention to rumors. You sleep better.
AS: They specifically cited your handling of Waldvol Aerospace; a small specialty ship manufacturer that you were hired to run after the original CEO was indicted on embezzlement charges. They claim that under your leadership, the patents and intellectual property of Waldvol were sold off to the highest bidder until the company was absorbed by ArcCorp and dissolved. You and the remaining board were reported to have received a healthy payout while the other employees were terminated with nothing.AA: Look, I’m still bound by several NDAs from talking about the particulars of Waldvol, but I’ll just say that every avenue was taken to save the company. Am I upset about how it turned out? Yes. The people in that company did not deserve to be betrayed like that. By the time I came in, the damage had been done.
AS: So, you don’t believe that the damage to Drake’s reputation is of a similar level of magnitude?AA: Definitely not. Like I said earlier, Drake ships have always had a place in my heart, so I want to make sure that we navigate out of the tricky waters caused by this scandal. I’m interested in taking Drake Interplanetary into the future while keeping the company connected to the people who brought it this far. By hiring me, the board of directors signaled their confidence in me to deliver on that promise.
AS: Does your appointment mean that Drake will try harder to keep their ships out of outlaw hands?AA: Just like Drake’s previous CEOs, my goal is to make ships that people want. Unfortunately, some people use our ships in ways that were never intended, and we strongly condemn anyone who does so. It has always struck me as interesting that the same dependability, versatility, and ruggedness that makes Drake the choice of so many pilots, small business owners, and militia also makes us popular with others who sometimes stand counter to the principles of the UEE and her people. That’s why one of my first directives was to institute a policy that all sales associates attend a mandatory training session every year that reviews our company policy alongside local and Empire-wide law. While we can’t intervene once a ship leaves our showroom floor, Drake is dedicated to doing everything it can to ensure our sales follow the letter of the law.
AS: We need to take a quick commercial break, but there’s more to come with the new Drake Interplanetary CEO. Plus, I’ll have a Market Breakdown on how a disrupted supply chain has affected the production outlook for both J-Span and Lightning Power Ltd.
That and more when Kaizen return.