Toronto — Now that he has endured a fierce legal battle with his former company, Robert Schad is turning his attention to succession.
Schad and the company he established several years ago, Athena Automation Ltd., can breathe a little easier after a court on April 22 dismissed legal actions against them by Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. Husky had alleged that Schad and Athena misused confidential information in their designs for Athena's injection molding presses. Athena employees had access to new Husky technology at injection molder Niigon Technologies Ltd. in northern Ontario, but the judge found Athena did not make material use of the knowledge.
“We are thrilled that Husky's claims have been defeated,” Schad said in an email to Plastics News. “That is what is most important.”
For its part, Husky is appealing the ruling, which came in a 127-page opinion from Justice Frank Newbould on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Commercial List in Toronto.
“The legal proceedings that had been initiated against Robert Schad, Athena and others were a last resort to an extremely challenging situation,” Husky CEO John Galt said in an email to Plastics News.
“This decision was initiated only after an extended period of discussion and mediation, lasting well over a year, in which the parties were unable to resolve the dispute in a mutually agreeable way. While we are disappointed with the judge's interpretation of the history of events, our concerns in initiating the lawsuit were justified by the court's findings relating to the misuse of Husky's confidential information.”
Schad requested email correspondence rather than a phone interview because his hearing is not good. At trial, questions for Schad were posted on a video monitor for him to read before answering.
Now Schad, who is 87, is looking to pass the reins of Athena to a different executive, and his timeline is strict.
“We are looking to bring on a CEO within two years, either by promoting from within or hiring an external candidate,” Schad said.
Athena is growing into its new manufacturing plant in Woodbridge, Ontario, a 150,000-square-foot facility next to its original building. Completion of the new $45 million operation should occur about the end of June and machinery production will pick up pace now that the legal distractions have mainly dissipated.
“With the lawsuit out of the way, we are looking forward to hiring more people and ramping up shipments,” Schad said. “It will be the end of the year before we have achieved a proper production flow through the new facility.”
New products under development include a 450-ton injection press to extend the firm's machine tonnage options. Cube and rotary-table technologies are being developed for multi-material molding. As well, Athena will debut this year a closure-molding package to complement its PET container molding machine offerings. Schad said Athena decided early on to focus on injection molding machines to make them completely modular. A customer chooses the mold maker who can present its technological options for the customer's application.
Fighting Husky was expensive in terms of money and time but what bothered Schad most were implications that he stole information from Husky, a company he founded in 1953 and sold to private equity investors in 2007.
“The most difficult part for me was the stress the lawsuit came with and the questioning of my integrity,” Schad said.
Countersuit also dismissed