This could be the greatest comeback in corporate history: a formerly bankrupt company that has seen customers, revenues, and profits all growing at double digits—and a stock that could soon go public through an unusual method.
You might be forgiven for wondering if Iridium Satellite is still around—even the current CEO thought that when first approached by the company. However, this month, many people were reminded that Iridium still flies, after one of its satellites was destroyed by an inoperable Russian satellite.
Motorola made a $5 billion investment in Iridium in the '90s to convince consumers that expensive satellite phones were better than cellphones because they could get a signal anywhere on the planet.
A "net" of 66 Iridium satellites was launched in 1997 and 1998, orbiting the Earth only 500 miles up, much closer than other satellites, cutting down on signal delays. "It's a real thrill..to have Motorola satellites in space!" said Ray Leopold, VP of Motorola Satcom, back in '97.
Problem is, customers didn't buy. The phones were too expensive, and most people had cellular service available. Joe Six-Pack wasn't living in Antarctica. Iridium went bankrupt in 1999.
Turns out Iridium wasn't a bad concept, though, it just had a bad business model.
The company was bought out of bankruptcy in 2001 for $25 million — just one half of one percent of Motorola's cost.