Chief executive quits manufacturer amidst critical battle to secure funding

Neill Ricketts

The chief executive of graphene manufacturing business Versarien has quit the business he co-founded, while it battles to secure funds to provide stability.

Neill Ricketts’ departure from the AIM-listed group after 12 years was revealed in a short, 60-word statement which did not include any comments thanking him. Versarien’s share price plunged by more than 50% when the markets opened this morning.

Versarien has struggled with successfully commercialising its innovations and last month reported a pre-tax loss of £8.4m for the 18 months to September 2022.

The company acknowledged a “material uncertainty” about its future existed because it had not confirmed the results of a number of significant grant applications which, if unsuccessful, would require the group to go to investors to plug the cash hole.

At the time, Ricketts said the business would “need the continuing support of investors, either strategic or from the capital markets, to fund the business until such time as the graphene market gains traction and material commercial revenues flow”.

Versarien’s share price had already fallen by 75% since November and by 97% in the last five years before news of Ricketts’ departure. Its shares had closed last night at 4.91p, valuing the company at £10m.

The Cheltenham-based group will be run by CFO Chris Leigh and CTO Stephen Hodge while the board reviews “the appropriate longer term management structure of the company”.

Versarien enjoyed significant growth in its early years after being launched in 2011. Ricketts has described the journey as “two men in a garage to 100 employees in four years”, which also included listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2013 when the business was pre-revenue.