Aerovironment Inc. announced last week that its renowned founder, Paul MacCready, is retiring due to a serious health problem.


MacCready, 80, founded the company in 1971 and has served as chairman for the past 16 years.


He built a name for himself in the aeronautics world by becoming the first American to win the World Gliding Championship in 1956. And in 1977, he won the prestigious Kremer Prize for his Gossamer Condor aircraft, the first practical and successful man-powered flying machine. For his accomplishments, Time magazine included MacCready on its list of "The Century's Greatest Minds."


Aerovironment said he has decided to step down "as a result of a recently diagnosed, serious health issue," but did not provide details.


The Monrovia maker of unmanned aerial vehicles also said its directors have elected President and Chief Executive Tim Conver as its new chairman.


"We send Paul and his family our heartfelt gratitude along with our best wishes," Conver said in a prepared statement. "His presence at the company will be sorely missed by the entire AV family, but his contributions will continue to benefit us and society for some time."


Conver will take over immediately as chairman. The 64-year-old first joined the board in the 1980s and became company president in 1991.


Aerovironment produces a variety of hand-launched unmanned aircraft that can be used on the battlefield for surveillance and other purposes. The company generates about 80 percent of its $173 million in annual revenue from sales of the aircraft.


Trio of Contracts

Construction giant Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. announced last week a bevy of new contracts from some major international corporations.


The $8 billion Pasadena company won contracts from a trio of United Kingdom companies pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC, railroad operator Network Rail Ltd. and energy company Magnox Electric Ltd. as well as a contract extension.


GlaxoSmithKline awarded a multi-million dollar, 2-year deal to Jacobs as an alliance contractor for two of the company's manufacturing facilities in Singapore. The total value of the contract was not disclosed.


Jacobs was one of five companies to receive a framework contract for the track switch and crossing designs of the U.K. rail system. Jacobs' portion is worth up to $12 million for three years of work.


Though that contract is relatively small, Jacobs Group Vice President Michael Higgins released a statement saying the deal was a step toward building a stronger relationship with the company and hinted at possible future deals.


"We look forward to continuing to support Network Rail as they enhance and improve rail transport in the U.K.," he said.


To round out the trio of deals, Jacobs also announced it will provide project management services for work on nuclear reactors in the U.K. under a two-year contract with Magnox. The value of the deal was not disclosed.


In addition to the deals, Jacobs also secured a five-year contract extension with Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. The contract covers design and construction management for the aerospace company's Missiles & Fire Control division in Orlando, Fla.


Radio Jam

Local business contributions to American battlefield operations are not limited to the major aerospace suppliers.


Industrial Electronic Engineers Inc. announced this month it has been awarded a contract to supply more than 4,000 control units for a system used to jam radio-controlled improvised explosive devices.


The Van Nuys company manufactures electronic displays for the military as well as for aerospace, medical, retail and industrial markets.


The contract was awarded by New York-based Edo Corp. under the Defense Department's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. The contract amount was not disclosed.


Reliance Repurchases Stock

Los Angeles metals manufacturer Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. announced last week that it has bought back more than 600,000 shares of its common stock under a repurchase plan approved by its board.


The company bought 645,204 shares between Aug. 16 and Aug. 20 at an average cost of $44.69 under the plan, which authorizes it to buy up to 12 million shares.


The company has about 76 million shares of its stock outstanding.


Chief Executive David Hannah said the move was spurred by recent stock market activity that has brought down the value of its stock. Its shares were trading at $51 for the week ending Aug. 22, down significantly from its 52-week high of $64.13 on May 9.


Staff reporter Richard Clough can be reached at rclough@labusinessjournal.com , or (323) 549-5225, ext. 251.

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