Velodyne Lidar CEO Resigns in Latest Internal Drama

Velodyne Lidar CEO Anand Gopalan is leaving the lidar company in late July as the sensor supplier continues to grapple with internal drama.

Gopalan, who previously served as CTO, is leaving the top position after approximately one and a half years of service.

Velodyne said in a statement Monday that a team of top executives, including COO Jim Barnhart, CFO Drew Hamer, Chief People Officer Kathy McBeath and Chief Commercial Officer Sinclair Vass, will lead the company as it searches for a new chief executive. The company did not disclose why Gopalan left.

Gopalan’s resignation comes after months of internal drama and business setbacks for a company considered the leading supplier of lidar, the light-detection and remote radar sensor considered a critical component to deploying autonomous vehicles commercially.

The layoff is the latest in a string of problems that have surfaced since Velodyne Lidar struck deal to merge with a special purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial Corp. At the time, it was reported that: Velodyne founder David Hall, along with backers Ford, the Chinese search engine Baidu, Hyundai Mobis and Nikon Corp. hold an 80% interest in the combined company. Hall became executive chairman and Gopalan remained in the CEO position.

Hall and his wife Marta Thoma Hall collided with the SPAC that took over Velodyne. In February David Hall removed as chairman of the board and Marta Thoma Hall lost her position as chief marketing officer after an investigation by the board of directors for “improper conduct.”

Meanwhile, Ford, which at the end of the third quarter of 2020 had nearly 13.1 million shares — a value of approximately $244 million — in Velodyne, sold his interest at the end of the year.

Velodyne sensors had been used by Ford in testing autonomous vehicles. It was intended to be the go-to sensor for its autonomous vehicles once they were deployed commercially.

In fact, Veoneer had announced in 2019 that it would use Velodyne’s technology for a contract to supply the sensor to Ford (and by extension, its autonomous vehicle technology supplier, Argo AI). But Veoneer reported in February that it had lost its contract.

Argo, which acquired lidar company Princeton Lightwave, unveiled in May details about a long-range lidar sensor which it claims is capable of seeing 400 meters away with high-resolution photorealistic quality and the ability to detect dark and distant objects with low reflectivity. With so much progress internally, Argo and Ford are putting their plans for the future on their own lidar.

In a letter dated May, David Hall blamed the SPAC, in particular the SPAC-appointed members of the combined company’s board of directors, for the poor financial performance and called for the resignation of Gopalan and two board members.

As part of Velodyne’s announcement of Gopalan’s resignation, the company reconfirmed its business outlook for 2021 revenue, noting that its expectation of between $77 million and $94 million remains unchanged. Velodyne will publish its second quarter financial results on August 5.