Alan Gotcher, CEO of Altair Nanotechnologies (NASDAQ:ALTI), “agreed to resign” on Friday afternoon. Altairnano has kept relatively silent about Gotcher’s departure, except to say the company’s board “determined that the level of progress made at this point in the development timeline of the company did not keep pace with the expectations that were set.” The company has worked on commercializing its lithium titanate battery for a number of years, but has yet to sign a major distribution contract.
There’s also the $40 million Al Yousuf LLC share deal, which occurred over November and December of 2007. So where did it all go horribly wrong for Gotcher?
Many believed Altairnano was making dubious claims about its battery technology - that its nanotitanate structure allowed for high lithium ion packing, fast charging (under 10 minutes), and nearly 20,000 cycles with little degradation. To date, Altairnano’s super battery has only found one customer - Phoenix Motorcars. With agreements in 2006 and 2007, as well as a 16.6 percent ownership purchase in Phoenix, it seems likely Altairnano is destined to become a one-trick pony.
Al Yousuf LLC, a Dubai-based conglomerate, is the final character in this winding story. Al Yousuf bought nearly 11.5 million Altair Nano shares in a private placement deal over November and December of 2007. A few days later Al Yousuf invested $5 million in Zap (also rumored to have been speaking with Altairnano) and an undisclosed amount in (surprise…) Phoenix Motorcars. Was the plan to sell Altairnano-powered Phoenix vehicles at Zap dealerships? It seems likely. If that’s the case, Gotcher’s failure to put out a solid commercial product - the lynch pin in Al Yousuf’s master plan - may be at the bottom of his agreement to resign. Or maybe he just wanted to spend more time with his family.