Questions raised over unexplained departure of global chief executive Jeremy Horner

Clients of consultant Davis Langdon have expressed concern about the circumstances surrounding the sudden and unexplained resignation of its global chief executive
this week.

Jeremy Horner, appointed global chief executive of Davis Langdon on its merger with Aecom in October 2010, resigned this week, just months after completing a senior level restructure.

Aecom announced that it has appointed Bob Pell as global chief executive of its programme, cost and consultancy practice, which includes Davis Langdon, and confirmed Horner’s departure, revealed by this week.

Aecom declined, despite numerous requests, to offer any explanation for the resignation, which comes after the departure of 33 partners during a restructure in October, and a number of senior Davis Langdon staff in advance of the merger.

Horner, formerly finance director of the independent firm, was at Davis Langdon for 20 years. Staff were told of his departure on Monday.

Vinod Thakrar, director of project management at developer Hammerson, said the lack of an explanation for Horner’s departure and the recent loss of many directors “does make you think twice” about working with them in future.

He said he had had no indication that Horner was going to leave and had received no communication so far from Davis Langdon on the subject.

Flan McNamara, project director at Sellar Developments, which is working with Davis Langdon on the Shard, said: “The instability would perhaps concern us if we were starting another project.”

But he added his main concern was whether the consultant had the skills to meet the needs of each project and that so far the Shard had been unaffected.
Hanif Kara, partner at engineer AKT II, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if many others follow suit [in leaving]. Davis Langdon is gaining abroad but are losing out in terms of the high-end service in London. DL used to be the first name on any team in London but now not as often. “

Horner’s resignation comes after a period of intense change triggered by the Aecom takeover. He led the restructuring of the business to focus more on infrastructure and overseas work after the purchase.

Aecom said Pell would be taking on Horner’s role despite the different job title. Pell, as chief integration officer, was seen as one of the driving forces behind the 2011 director-level restructure of Davis Langdon.

A source close to the firm said that prior to his resignation, Horner was offered a pan-Aecom role leading an internal programme of organisational change, entitled the “transformational agenda”.

Horner and Aecom declined to confirm this, or whether this was linked to his departure.

Steve Waltho, managing director, Europe at Davis Langdon, himself only appointed in January following a previous reshuffle, said it was business as usual: “My appointment puts an end to the restructuring in Europe, and we’re now looking forward to the future with very good plans for growth.”