Industry sources say the move has been prompted by fears that clients will shun Schal because of problems on major projects, including the Royal Opera House and the Tate Gallery at Bankside.
Stanhope director Peter Rogers, who is involved in both projects told Building: “I’m not surprised. Schal has lost the skill to manage large construction projects. And the whole advantage of going to Schal was the back-up of Tarmac, but we have never seen that resource.”
Bairstow played down the speculation and declined to discuss Rogers’ comments. “It’s the completely wrong perception. It’s purely about new opportunities in Carillion. The bottom line is the millennium projects have been successful,” he said.
However, Rogers’ view was echoed by Paul Morrell, senior partner at Davis Langdon & Everest, who said: “Malcolm is a good guy who wanted to mean what he said when he made commitments to clients. But there was never any back-up in the group. There seems not to have been a powerful interest from either Tarmac or Carillion in Schal’s work.”
He added: “Moving Malcolm won’t solve Schal’s problems, it’s about the people they put in the field. Carillion had a lot of good people but for some reason could never put them on site to support Schal. Until lately, it was a good brand.”
Bairstow, who has run Schal for five years, declined to discuss what his future role within Carillion would be, but said he would remain with Schal until the millennium projects were completed.
I’m not surprised. Schal has lost the skill to manage large construction projects
Stanhope’s Rogers on the departure
He said: “We’ve explained to staff that we’re looking for a successor to my position but I’ve attached no time scale.”
However, a Schal insider said: “He’ll leave as fast as decency will allow. Everyone understands it will be sooner rather than later. The whole thing is a bit odd and a bit sudden.”
The move has also led to speculation within Schal that it no longer figures in Carillion’s long-term plans. A Carillion spokesperson denied this: “We’re absolutely committed to Schal. It’s absolutely part of the Carillion group and we will continue to grow it,” he said.
The spokesperson added: “We’re in the process of sorting out with Malcolm what his new role will be. It’s time, as part of his management development, to take on a new role.”
Schal has already appointed a headhunter to find a successor to Bairstow.