Why the FTC is Suing to Block Lockheed Martin’s $4.4 Billion Purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Lockheed Martin
Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin

One of the most significant aerospace industry deals in years is now in jeopardy after the Federal Trade Commission announced it is suing to block defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s $4.4 billion purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne, the rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer based in El Segundo.

The federal antitrust regulator is arguing that if the acquisition goes through, it would allow Lockheed—already the world’s largest defense contractor—to maintain a monopoly over the missile industry. Aerojet Rocketdyne is currently an independent supplier to many other defense contractors, and the FTC expressed concern that if “our nation’s last independent supplier of key missile inputs” is bought out, Lockheed would have a stranglehold on components needed by the rest of the industry.

“Lockheed is one of a few missile middlemen the U.S. military relies on to supply vital weapons that keep our country safe,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova said in a statement Tuesday. “If consummated, this deal would give Lockheed the ability to cut off other defense contractors from the critical components they need to build competing missiles.”

Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne first inked the merger in December 2020. The transaction has been under review ever since by federal regulators, who are now proceeding with a federal district court complaint looking to stop the acquisition. A trial is currently scheduled to begin on June 16, meaning that Lockheed Martin can either defend the deal in court or simply back out of the transaction.

Both companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In its fourth-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, Lockheed said it “continues to believe in the benefits of the transaction for the United States and its allies, the industry, and all of the company's stakeholders.” Aerojet Rocketdyne—whose stock slid more than 18% Tuesday on the back of the FTC announcement—issued an identical statement.

The vote to block the merger was unanimous among the FTC’s four current commissioners, with the body’s two Democrats and two Republicans all agreeing to challenge the deal. The FTC’s rebuttal is rare; the agency said the intervention is its “first litigated defense merger challenge in decades.”

While Lockheed competes with several other large U.S.-based aerospace and defense firms for government missile contracts—including Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing—it’s by far the largest company of its kind, with revenues surpassing $67 billion in 2021.

The FTC noted that Aerojet only competes directly with one other firm, Northrop Grumman, to sell vital propulsion inputs for missiles and other weapons systems. If the deal is allowed to close, it argued, “The combined firm could disadvantage rivals by affecting the price or quality of the product, the quality of the engineering support, and the schedule and contract terms for developing and supplying” those components.

The agency also expressed concern over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s status as a subcontractor for many of the firms that Lockheed competes against; it said Aerojet’s access to “sensitive information” about those firms’ technical innovations and business strategies could allow Lockheed to “exploit its access to its rivals’ proprietary information to gain an advantage in competitions against them.”

Regulators added that the acquisition’s impact on competition could also raise prices on Lockheed’s largest customer: the U.S. government.

“Without competitive pressure, Lockheed can jack up the price the U.S. government has to pay, while delivering lower quality and less innovation,” Vedova said. “We cannot afford to allow further concentration in markets critical to our national security and defense.”


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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.