Gareth Lewis tipped to join rival firm now the Royal Opera House is finished and other senior staff consider their positions.
Problems at troubled construction manager Schal are mounting, with the news that it is about to lose another top director.

It has emerged that Schal is involved in a tug-of-war with a rival company to keep construction director Gareth Lewis, whose departure would be the latest in a series of high-profile exits. Four senior staff left to set up rival Exterior two years ago, and managing director Malcolm Bairstow announced in October that he would step down to take up a position at parent Carillion.

Bairstow’s move followed criticism of Schal by leading industry figures last year. Peter Rogers, director of developer Stanhope, said that the company had “lost the skill to manage large construction projects”.

Sources within Schal said Lewis, who joined the company as construction director on the Royal Opera House, is leaving Schal at the end of the month. Lewis is highly regarded within the industry and it is understood that Carillion deputy chairman and chief executive Sir Neville Simms was due to hold a meeting with him this week to persuade him to stay.

Lewis, who joined Schal from construction manager Mace, has been linked with a number of firms since the opera house was completed. It is thought that he feels he has gone as far as he can with the company.

In addition to Lewis, a number of other senior staff are thought to be considering their positions. One insider said: “A number of people are getting frustrated at the uncertainty over who is to be Malcolm’s successor. People are unsure about where the company is heading and who’s going to be leading it.”

It is understood that opera house project director Paul Reeder is the insiders’ choice to take over Bairstow’s position. However, Schal is also known to have interviewed someone from outside the company.

Carillion executive director John Sharples denied that the appointment was taking too long. He said: “There is no undue concern about the speed of it. We’ve told our people and clients what’s going on and that is part of the reason why it is taking longer.”