Last remaining founding partner, Rod MacDonald, will retire in restructuring of senior management

The last remaining founding partner of Buro Happold is to leave the business in a major shake-up of top management at the engineer.

Rod MacDonald, chairman and senior partner, will retire from the firm to make way for Mike Cook, who will become senior partner, but not chairman as this role is to be be phased out.

At the same time Gavin Thompson, the chief executive officer, will be replaced by Paul Westbury, European managing director. Thompson will sit on the main board and is expected to run another part of the business.

Westbury told Building that the changes at the £123m-turnover engineer, which made a pre-tax profit of £12.7m last year, did not imply a major shift in strategy.

Immediately, I hope, there won’t be any change for the guys working on their projects,” he said. He added that the firm was pushing ahead with masterplanning work for governments and cities.

“We’re advising the mayors of Jeddah and Detroit on 50-year strategic plans,” he said.

The firm said it was competing against McKinsey, Deloitte and Arup on management consultancy and masterplanning sectors.

Buro Happold’s constitution means that the chief executive officer and senior partner positions are changed every three to six years and MacDonald and Thompson have both served six-year terms in their respective positions.

The firm recently announced that it will create the new position of chief operating officer, to be filled by Chris Heatherington, former non-executive director.

Westbury said that the headcount in all areas except the UK would see “significant growth” while the UK would see “modest growth”. Asked whether Buro Happold had been targeted by acquisitive firms, he answered: “loads of times” but said that the firm had rebutted offers.

Westbury said that unrest in North Africa and the Middle East meant that Buro Happold would actually carry out more work in the region because governments needed to improve the living conditions of their populations.

“Think about the problems that caused the unrest. You could argue that it was a lack of quality housing and lack of jobs,” he said, adding that Buro Happold could help the countries meet those needs.

Westbury explained that Buro Happold’s top management was largely made up of engineers who wouldn’t want to serve in those positions unless they knew they could return to engineering. afterwards.

“If the term of office for a chief executive was endless we wouldn’t want to do these jobs,” he said.