Monday, July 28, 2009 the EAA board of directors, meeting in Oshkosh, reached an impasse during the process of attempting to confirm a new president to succeed Tom Poberezny, son of EAA founder Paul Poberezny and current head of the organization, according to several directors with whom Aviation Week spoke. As a result, Peter Bunce, current president of GAMA and candidate for the presidency of EAA, withdrew from the running on Tuesday morning, July 28, 2009.
“Without unanimity of the EAA board, it would have been tough to take over leadership of the organization,” Bunce told Aviation Week. He declined to elaborate.
The board of directors started talking about the need to find a successor to Tom Poberezny three years ago in anticipation of his retiring in 2011 on his 65th birthday. Notably, no younger family members had stepped up as potential candidates to succeed Poberezny, so that would have created a leadership vacuum upon his retirement. That troubled board members and it was a main reason they began to look outside the family for a successor.
A formal executive search process was launched in March after Poberezny announced that he was endorsing the succession process during a board teleconference and that he planned to assume the position of EAA chairman formerly held by Paul Poberezny. He also would be retained as chairman for the Airventure 2009 and 2010 events. The board’s executive committee was tapped to launch the search for a new president and David Pasahow, head of executive search firm Blueline Advisors and a board member, was retained to do most of the legwork.
From March until June, Pasahow and executive committee members screened 22 candidates during an exhaustive process that evaluated 11 specific qualifications. Finally, the executive committee chose Pete Bunce in a four-to-two vote in mid July. The executive committee’s findings were to be announced at a meeting of the full EAA board on Monday, July 28, 2009.
But, the news of the lack of a unanimous endorsement of Bunce by the executive committee leaked out to members of the full board. The revelation ignited a furious debate between board members seeking new leadership in the form of Bunce and those who decided they wanted to retain Poberezny as president for the foreseeable future.
The new president proponents also wanted a hidden ballot for the board confirmation vote on Bunce to avoid personalizing the process. But, that motion was defeated 20 to 14 by the Poberezny supporters, according to two directors who spoke to Aviation Week on condition of anonymity. With each director’s yea / nay confirmation vote on Bunce so visible to other board members, Bunce supporters felt they couldn’t carry the motion. The rancor on the board caused Bunce to drop out.While Bunce and Poberezny remain good friends, the rift on the board resulting from the deadlock has potential to cause long term problems. While Poberezny informed EAA directors on Tuesday afternoon that the executive search would continue, few qualified candidates are likely to step up in the future to the challenge of leading EAA with battle lines so clearly drawn. Without a successor to Poberezny as president, EAA could become rudderless if he retires as scheduled in 18 months. According to some board members, that could run the organization so carefully built by the Poberezny family for almost six decades into very hazardous skies.