April 16, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
The Dutch businessman who tried to save Eclipse and had great success in the 1990s leading technology firms such as Unix Systems Laboratories and Tandem Computer is himself in need of saving. The investment firm ETIRC (European Technology and Investment Research Center) established by Roel Pieper, former head of Eclipse Aviation, declared bankruptcy April 7.
It was Pieper’s failure to complete a loan with a Russian bank that led to the conversion of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Eclipse to a final Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reports that Pieper invested $146 million in Eclipse that came out of his own pocket through the ETIRC firm. It further reports that the total Eclipse debt is $1 billion.
Pieper specialized in Russian, Turkish, and American technology using personal funds and funds from other investors. At the same time he was fighting to save Eclipse he was investing tens of millions of dollars in a Russian technology to extract diesel fuel from coal. That project enabled him to attract Russian interest in Eclipse and a promise to invest that never materialized.
Recently several of his investments failed. They include a magazine, Opinio; a Web site, Tradingcars.com (the domain is for sale); and the telecommunications company Stonehenge, which lost $87 million. Efforts to start a company to make GPS navigation units for cars called MyGuide that was intended to compete with TomTom have also failed.
When Pieper returned to The Netherlands in 1998, de Volkskrant reported, he joined the board of the huge electronics company Phillips. His career there ended when he told a press briefing that he was in charge, the “crown prince” at Phillips. The remark didn’t go over well with the CEO, Cor Boonstra. He left in 1999 for Belgium to become the vice chairman of the board of Lernhout & Hauspie, a speech-recognition company. He left when the company ran into trouble over bookkeeping errors.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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