SunEdison CEO Cancels Wharton Graduation Speech

SunEdison’s chief executive has canceled plans to speak at a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School graduation ceremony as the company’s financial woes mount.

Ahmad Chatila was scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at Wharton’s San Francisco executive MBA graduation ceremony on May 7. The prestigious business school offers the program alongside a similar course of study at its Philadelphia campus.

A SunEdison spokesman confirmed that Mr. Chatila wasn’t planning to attend the event but declined to comment further.

“Mr. Chatila informed us that he must, unfortunately, cancel his plans to speak at the Wharton MBA Program for Executives San Francisco graduation as his schedule has changed,” Peggy Bishop Lane, the program’s vice dean, said in a statement. “We regret he will not be able to address our graduating students and wish him the best.”

SunEdison’s outlook has darkened considerably since February, when Wharton announced that it booked Mr. Chatila to speak at the ceremony. The company, whose market capitalization grew to nearly $10 billion in July before plummeting to less than $100 million, is preparing to file for bankruptcy, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. It’s also facing Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department investigations and a lawsuit from a subsidiary accusing it of diverting funds.

The speaking engagement put Mr. Chatila in good company. Speakers at ceremonies honoring other Wharton MBA program graduates next month include Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Google parent Alphabet, and Twitter CFO Anthony Noto, according to the school’s website.

Mr. Chatila’s recent career history is the stuff of a business school case study. In March 2009, he took the helm of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc., which acquired SunEdison later that year. Over the following years, he helped the manufacturer of solar-panel components morph into one of the country’s biggest developers of renewable-power plants.

SunEdison’s shares rose sharply between June 2012 and June 2015. To fuel growth and free up cash for acquisitions, the company established subsidiaries that bought its finished power projects and paid out much of their profits to shareholders. These “yieldcos” took advantage of investor demand for income-generating securities in an era of low interest rates, selling shares to finance acquisitions from their parent.

But falling oil prices caused a broad selloff for energy stocks, and capital-market turbulence stoked concerns about SunEdison’s ability to continue financing acquisitions.