Macpherson's impact stretches from the success of his construction management firm to his campaigning for change in the industry and his role in the Egan movement.
He started his building career as a management trainee at Bovis in 1965 after completing a Higher National Diploma at Glasgow, and set up his own firm in 1989. His image, however, is more akin to an architect than a builder, with his enthusiasm for reforming payment practices, penchant for Paul Smith suits and love of classical music. But then, as a zealous advocate of fee-based contracting, Macpherson would put himself very much in the professional camp.
He caught the construction management bug in the mid-1980s when he was the Bovis director in charge of construction at London's Broadgate. When Bovis refused to set up a specialist CM unit, Macpherson quit to start up on his own. The firm got its first big break in 1991 when it beat Bovis to the job of project and construction manager on the £160m Niels Torp-designed British Airways headquarters at Heathrow.
Having started the firm as a proselytiser for construction management, Macpherson shocked many in the industry when he announced at the end of 1998 that it would be offering CM with a guaranteed maximum price.
On his retirement, the firm employed 500 staff and turned over £30m in 1998. It was valued at about £10m, making Macpherson a millionaire. But financial success isn't everything. His passion for change found an outlet when he joined the board of the Movement for Innovation, the body set up to implement the Egan report. Since retiring, Macpherson has been based in Malta and indulged his passion for travelling.
Bob White, one of Mace's founding partners and its chief executive for the past three years, has run the operation since Macpherson left. He said at the time: "Ian's departure has created opportunities for change – there certainly will be changes to do with the structure of the company." He adds: "I'll miss him, but I think it's the right thing for him to do." Those who know Macpherson were not entirely surprised by his departure. Stanhope director and Macpherson mentor Peter Rogers said at the time: "He's one of the few people in the industry willing to innovate and take risks. The industry is losing one of its few movers and shakers. And I'll miss him as a friend."
A longer version of this article appeared in Building on 12 March 1999.
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