Omer Bar-Yohay, co-founder and CEO of electric aircraft company Eviation, abruptly left the company Monday just weeks ahead of the planned first flight of its airplane.
In a message posted on LinkedIn, Bar-Yohay cited “a long-standing disagreement with the company’s main shareholder,” which is the Singapore-based Clermont Group, owned by New Zealand-born billionaire Richard Chandler.
The surprise move was not Bar-Yohay’s decision. His replacement, Eviation President and now interim CEO Gregory Davis, said in an interview Monday that the company board voted in December to oust Bar-Yohay.
“My understanding is that Omer was aware of that decision,” Davis said. He declined to share any details of the disagreement between Bar-Yohay and majority shareholder Chandler, citing Eviation’s status as a private company.
The company is based in Arlington. The first production model of the nine-passenger, two-crew Alice electric commuter plane assembled there began taxi tests in December.
Speaking at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance annual conference in Lynnwood last week, Bar-Yohay said he expected first flight “within weeks” and added that production of the Alice airplane could go to “many hundreds, if not a thousand airplanes per year in a reasonable time.”
Bar-Yohay founded the company in Israel in 2015, aiming to develop the world’s first all-electric commuter plane. The Alice model is powered by batteries; electric motors made by sister company MagniX of Everett, also owned by Chandler, turn the propellers.
The company has overcome various setbacks, including a lithium ion battery fire that destroyed an early prototype.
Bar-Yohay showed off a nonflying Alice prototype at the 2019 Paris Air Show, moved operations to leased hangars at Arlington Municipal Airport in late 2020, and substantially redesigned the airplane last year.
Now, with the company on the brink of a historic first flight, Bar-Yohay will no longer be at the helm.
In his LinkedIn message, he said he will remain on the Eviation board and expressed confidence that Alice will still be successful. He pointedly stated that the project “will endure the influence of even the most misguided investor.”
Interim CEO Davis said the Eviation is “in a transition period … going from being a technology startup to an aircraft manufacturer” a change that entails new manufacturing and regulatory demands.
“That’s really what precipitated the change,” he said. “The knowledge that we would need to bring in aerospace professionals to make that transition.”
Former chair of Eviation Roei Ganzarski, an Israeli-born former Boeing executive who was also CEO of MagniX, stepped down from both roles last month. Ganzarski was replaced as Eviation chair by Dominique Spragg.
Davis said Ganzarski’s departure was unrelated to that of Bar-Yohay.
Davis joined Eviation just 10 months ago and before that worked for Viking Air, a Canadian company that repairs and modifies small aircraft.
Spragg, another Canadian, worked with Davis at Viking and is now chief of aerospace strategy at the Clermont Group, in addition to being executive chair at both MagniX and Eviation.
Davis said majority shareholder Chandler holds the majority of the voting rights on the board and is actively engaged in its activities.
He said the Eviation mission hasn’t changed.
“We’re still very much a going concern,” Davis said. “It’s the same people working on building the aircraft, the people who designed it and assembled it and brought us this far.”
“The main focus here is it’s time to fly,” he added.