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Bell Snags Top Salesman from American Eurocopter

Bell Helicopter didn't have to look far to find a new top salesman, just a few miles to the southeast in Grand Prairie.

Bell announced Wednesday that it had tapped into the ranks of archrival American Eurocopter and hired Larry D. Roberts as senior vice president over its commercial helicopter division.

Roberts had been at American Eurocopter since 1997 and most recently had been vice president of sales, marketing and customer support for the U.S. arm of the European-owned aircraft manufacturer. American Eurocopter surpassed Bell several years ago as the leader in nonmilitary helicopter sales in the U.S. as well as overseas.
"They've done very well in the North American market in the last several years, and Larry was a force behind that," Bell spokesman Jim McKenna said. "We're happy to have his commitment and experience on the Bell team."

Roberts will report directly to Bell CEO John Garrison, who joined the company in August and has been reshaping the management team. The duties Roberts will take on were formerly those of Robert Fitzpatrick, who left the company shortly after Garrison's arrival.
"I'm confident that, with his [Roberts'] experience and commitment to the industry, he will enhance Bell's ability to exceed the expectations of our commercial customers throughout the word," Garrison said in a statement the company issued.

A former law enforcement officer, Roberts also worked for American Eurocopter's parent, EADS North America, as director of marketing efforts aimed at making helicopter sales to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Before joining American Eurocopter, Roberts was a captain of criminal investigations for the Citrus County, Fla., Sheriff's Department and a patrolman and watch commander for the Gainesville, Fla., Police Department. He was also a founding member of the latter's helicopter unit.

Over the last decade or more, American Eurocopter has soared past Bell in commercial and civil helicopter sales in the U.S. market, including gaining support among law enforcement agencies such as the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Border Patrol.

After years of lagging behind its competitors in product development, Bell began sales and production of a new twin-engine model, the 429, last year, but confirming orders for the aircraft has been an uphill struggle with the tough economy and a higher price than initially promised.

Bell is widely expected to eventually announce a single-engine version of that aircraft as its next new product.

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