Super-consultant WS Atkins has lost deputy chief executive David James in the latest round of a massive, 14-month boardroom shake-up. James is the fifth board director to leave the multidisciplinary firm in just over a year.In February, management and industry executive Dick Jarvis and property director Barry Hutt left. Their departures followed the exits of directors David Slater and Tim Foley last year.
James, who was responsible for business development, transport work and the international business, had been a director since the firm floated in 1995.
An Atkins spokesperson said the changes were all part of chief executive Mike Jeffries’ strategy to have a small, tightly controlled board. “This brings him down to the board that he wants,” he said.
Jeffries and finance director Ric Piper now have control of the company concentrated in their hands. However, one analyst expressed concern at the number of casualties. “That’s quite a lot of directors to have left in just over a year,” he said. However, he also predicted that the business “will continue to produce good figures for the next few years”. Atkins’ shares rose 10p to 597.5p on the day of the announcement – well below its 12-month high of 755p.
The reorganisation has also seen local divisions merged into three national arms focusing on property, management and industry and transport.
Atkins held abortive merger talks with construction manager Mace earlier this year and is also believed to have had exploratory discussions with rail contractors Jarvis and Amey.
The firm also announced last week that Tim Wilson had joined the company on a two-year secondment from Whitehall. Wilson, a Home Office civil servant, has headed the policy division of the Treasury’s private finance initiative taskforce for the past two years. Before that he was head of the Prison Service’s Contracts and Competition Group.
Chief executive Mike Jeffries said Wilson’s in-depth experience would help Atkins to penetrate the PFI market in the UK and abroad.