EnerDel parent dismantles executive team

Ener1 Inc., the struggling parent company of Indianapolis-based advanced-battery maker EnerDel, continued its tumultuous year by completely overhauling its executive management team this week.

The New York-based company said it named a new CEO, president and chief financial officer on Monday in an effort to “improve its performance and shift its business toward heavy-duty transportation and electric grid energy-storage applications.”

Ener1’s initial focus was making compact, lithium-ion-powered batteries for automobiles, but the company has run into deep financial trouble despite receiving more than $100 million in government energy grants and numerous other government incentives.

Ener1 leaders said they planned to have 1,400 employees working in Indianapolis-area operations before 2015, but local employment has slipped from about 380 to roughly 250 since March. EnerDel operates from a Hague Road headquarters, a facility in Noblesville and leased factory space in the Mount Comfort area of Hancock County.

The company said Alex Sorokin has joined Ener1 as interim CEO, replacing Chris Cowger, who took the position less than two months ago.

Cowger was hired as CEO of the EnerDel unit in April and he replaced Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer in September after Gassenheimer was fired. Cowger also was Ener1’s president.

Sorokin, Ener1 said, “brings nearly 30 years of experience successfully leading companies through periods of transition and transformation.” He assisted more than 30 U.S. and international companies “in restructuring and improving their businesses” in a range of industries, including technology, transportation and heavy manufacturing, the company said.

Nicholas Brunero, Ener1’s general counsel since 2008, was given the additional role of interim president.

Dale Parker, chairman of the board of Minnesota-based HickoryTech Corp., was hired as CFO, replacing Jeffrey Seidel, who took the job in September.

Ener1 said Cowger and Seidel resigned from the company but will take consulting roles to “ensure a smooth transition.”

Late last month, Ener1 was removed from the NASDAQ stock exchange due to non-compliance with filing requirements.

Ener1’s shares tumbled from more than $4 a share in January, when Vice President Joe Biden visited EnerDel’s Greenfield battery plant, to less than a dollar in a matter of months. Shares traded at less than 20 cents before it left the NASDAQ exchange.

The company has experienced a series of setbacks this year. Most recently, several lawsuits were filed, claiming the company misled investors about its financial condition.

Investors began filing the suits in August, days after Ener1 said it would restate earnings for 2010 and for the first quarter of this year. Ener1’s 2010 financial loss of $69 million eventually was restated to a loss of $165 million.

Ener1’s auditors said in an August SEC filing that there were growing cash-flow concerns regarding the company and doubts about its ability to continue operations.

EnerDel was formed in Indiana in 2004 when Ener1 began acquiring the lithiom-ion battery operations of Delphi Corp.

It previously received a $118.5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant and has applied for $290 million in federal loan guarantees.

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