WSP founder clarifies his role in merger with Genivar as being in charge of UK business and chair of overall group

Current WSP chief executive Chris Cole will remain in direct charge of the UK engineer’s global operations following the firm’s acquisition by Canadian consultant Genivar.

Cole, who will become “executive chair” of the merged organisation, said the job title would see him retain direct control of the 9,000-strong UK business, while technically becoming chair of the overall group. Genivar chief executive Pierre Shoiry will remain chief executive of the overall group.
Cole, who will remain based in the UK, explained the changes following questions over the proposed management structure, which saw both men given executive roles.

The structure means that, despite Genivar having acquired WSP, Cole will be in executive charge of the largest part of the group, as well as chair of the whole entity.

Let’s forget names and titles - They’re there for the board meetings

Asked if this gave potential for conflict between Canadian and UK management, Cole said: “I think the landscape is big enough for that not to occur - both the existing landscape and the potential future one.”

“Lets forget the names and the titles, they’re there for the board meetings and when decisions are taken. Two big businesses coming together - the reality is we have to work as a partnerships.”

Cole added that he expected to stay at the merged firm for the forseable future. He said: “They want me to stay and so do I.”

Cole was one of the founding partners of WSP in 1969 and became managing director in 1987 when it floated on the London Stock Exchange.
WSP’s existing executive directors Paul Dollin, Rikard Appelgren and Stuart McLachlan

Chris Cole on …

Growth …

We have held our revenue firm for three years now but you’ve got to progress your business and actually give opportunities for people working in it. One thing’s for sure you can’t continually stand still otherwise you’ll be the last man standing.

Other approaches …

I don’t waste my time getting past G&T talk if I don’t think there’s something meaningfuL. There’s never been a play for WSP

The deal …

I’ve always looked for what’s right for WSP. That’s the only driver I’ve had, it’s in my DNA - and I believed this was a rare opportunity. It was for the right reasons

Genivar’s French-Canadian culture …

Learning a bit of French would be helpful… It’s quite humbling, Genivar is very multilingual. But what the Brits are quite good at is understanding and respecting culture.