GT Solar replaces 2 board members

In a series of rapid personnel changes over the last week, GT Solar Inc. has replaced its comptroller and two board members and said goodbye to a third board member.The Merrimack-based maker of equipment and material to make solar cells and LED lighting is not providing any explanation behind the changes.On Wednesday, GT appointed John R Granara III as its vice president of finance, chief accounting officer and corporate comptroller, replacing Richard E. Johnson, who left on May 26 — the day after Johnson signed off on a glowing annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The sparely worded announcement of Johnson’s resignation did not offer an explanation.Johnson declined comment to NHBR on why he left, referring calls to the company, which has yet to return phone calls on the matter.Johnson had previously been the company’s chief financial officer, but he was replaced in February 2010 by Richard Gaynor, who in his announcement of Granara’s hiring said, “We are grateful for the contributions that Rich Johnson made during his years at GT, and we wish him the best.”Granara’s hails from A123, where he served as comptroller from 2007 to 2010, after which he served as interim CFO. Granara will be leaving a troubled company to extremely profitable one.GT Solar posted a net profit of $175 million, or $1.24 a share, in fiscal 2011, with a backlog of $1.2 billion.On the other hand, A123 — a producer of lithium batteries for electric and hybrid cars based in Waltham, Mass. — lost $53.6 million last quarter, or 51 cents a share. It lost $87 million in 2009, and $153 million last year. A123 went public in 2009 with high hopes – trading as high as $25 a share, but was never profitable, and now sells below $6.According to GT Solar’s filing, Granara will get a base salary of $235,000, a target bonus of 40 percent of that salary and grant of 40,000 restricted stock units.GT also added two new board members — Mary Petrovich, general manager of AxleTech International LLC and Robert Switz, former CEO and chair of ADC Telecommunications Inc. Both will be paid $40,000 plus $120,000 of restricted stock awards.The two will be replacing J. Bradford Forth and R. Chad Van Sweden, both of whom who were associated with GFI Energy Group, which had bought (through GT Solar Holdings) a controlling interest in GT Solar in 2006, back when its founder, Kedar Gupta, was CEO of the company.That former controlling partnership (which included Gupta) sold out its remaining interest in November 2010, the same time Forth and Van Sweden resigned and Johnson was replaced as CFO and became a comptroller.GT Solar recently became embroiled in a legal dispute with Gupta, alleging that his new company – Advance Renewable Energy Company LLC , or ARC Energy, — accepted trade secrets from Crystal Systems, which GT acquired last July. A lawsuit was filed on May 6.ARC, however, said it will fight the suit, since the “equipment and process are entirely our own,” according to Daniel Lyman, ARC’s secretary and general counsel — and formerly an attorney for GT Solar.Also on Wednesday, another board member, Fusen E. Chen, notified the company that he would not stand for re-election. Chen, who has served on the board since 2008, will step down when the term ends on August, 2011. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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