New business director Tony Aitkenhead quits, but construction chairman denies brain drain.
Laing Construction has lost its third senior manager in six months with the sudden departure of Tony Aitkenhead, director of new business.

Laing Construction chairman Jim Armstrong said Aitkenhead, who left at the end of April after more than 27 years with the company, would not be replaced directly.

Aitkenhead, who was also an associate board director of Laing Group, was previously operations director and before that headed Laing Management.

He was given the new business role last October at the time of Laing’s decision to cut 850 jobs and reduce turnover by one-third. His brief was to develop strategies for increasing Laing’s fee-based construction and project management work.

But Armstrong said a decision was taken recently to combine responsibility for the international and new business divisions under Brian Emerton, who is managing director of John Laing International. “Tony considered the options and left of his own accord,” said Armstrong.

Tony left of his own accord. There is no trend there

Jim Armstrong, Chairman, Laing Construction

Aitkenhead’s departure follows hard on the heels of Laing Construction chief executive Paul Whitmore, who left for Morgan Sindall in March, and southern director Martin Tidd, who joined fit-out group Churchfield last October. All were long-standing Laing employees. Whitmore was also an associate group board director. However, Armstrong dismissed suggestions of a brain drain from the Laing boardroom. “There is no trend there,” he said.

Armstrong said Emerton was now putting together a plan to expand Laing’s fee work, including construction, project, programme and logistics management around the world. Laing already works in the Middle East, the Far East and the former Soviet states.

Armstrong said the push was likely to see Laing carrying out fee-work in joint venture with partners in Europe, “not a traditional area for Laing”, he said.