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First Solar Aims to Expand Board: Sources

Friday, 23 Mar 2012 | 11:38 AM ET

First Solar is in active discussions with several potential additions to its board of directors, people familiar with the matter said.

First Solar headquarters
Photo: Firstsolar.com
First Solar headquarters

The Tempe, Ariz.-based energy company recently reached out to industry experts for suggestions regarding the expansion, according to these people, some of whom claimed the process to appoint new directors was losing steam.

It’s unclear how many additions the company is seeking, and whether the changes would include removing any current directors. However, any considerations would likely be required to be put up to a shareholder vote in the company’s 2012 proxy. Last year’s proxy statement was filed April 13 ahead of a late May meeting.

“The company will continue to add the talent and expertise they need to get the appropriate team on board,” said Chris Kettenmann, energy analyst at Miller Tabak + Co. “New leadership will help the visibility on the company’s direction.”

First Solar declined to comment on the board search.

According to First Solar’s web site, the board currently has eight directors, one of which comes from the company itself: Founder Michael Ahearn has assumed the interim roles of CEO and executive chairman, following former chief Rob Gillette’s abrupt departure in October 2011.In Ahearn’s first conference call as interim CEO, he highlighted the continued risks facing the industry.

Gillette’s exit sent shares of First Solar reeling after an already painful year. Shares lost 73 percent in 2011, and are down another 20 percent in 2012 — though the S&P 500 has performed better than it has in 13 years.

The company had aimed to have a new CEO in place by the end of the first quarter, the people familiar with the plans said — a parallel search that is still ongoing.

Follow Kayla Tausche on Twitter: @kaylatausche

*A previous version of this story said that the board had nine members, two coming from the company — including CFO Mark Widmar. Widmar’s name appeared with the board in First Solar’s most recent 10-K on Februa4y 29 but does not serve on the board.

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