Suntech's founder (and solar industry pioneer) Zhengrong Shi has been replaced as CEO by former chief financial officer David King, a Chinese-American who joined the company last year.
The surprise move is meant to get Suntech's financial house in order after four consecutive unprofitable quarters and a stock price that has fallen more than 50 percent this year. The company has a crushing debt load of over $2.2 billion and says it was a victim of a fraud involving solar projects in Europe that could further damage its balance sheet.
In many ways, Suntech is suffering from the stifling market conditions it helped create. To achieve greater scale, it borrowed heavily and rapidly expanded production to lower solar panel costs and keep pace with competitors (see "The Chinese Solar Machine"). But now, the market is flooded with panels, and the leading Chinese solar manufacturers are overextended financially.