Part of an exclusive investigation into management of Sir Robert McAlpine

A former employee of Sir Robert McAlpine has claimed the eponymous founding family has traditionally run the firm like a collective “chief executive”, with the cultural shift in stepping back being cited as a challenge during Tony Aikenhead’s short-lived tenure in the CEO role.

Aikenhead - the private family-owned contractor’s first ever chief executive - stepped down suddenly last month after just nine months in the role.

As part of an exclusive investigation into management of Sir Robert McAlpine, an ex-employee told Building historically only the McAlpine family retained an overall view of the business, and said: “You have to understand that in a very real sense the family was the chief executive.”

Peter Rogers, partner in high-profile developer Lipton Rogers, suggested Aikenhead could have had a difference of approach to the family.

Rogers said: “He’s a bloody good builder, and a pretty tough construction man. It may be that that didn’t fit with the more gentle, sophisticated McAlpine style.”

Building revealed last month Sir Robert McAlpine will retain the role of chief executive and the position will not be filled by a member of the McAlpine family. The company has previously said Aikenhead left the firm because he had had “achieved what he’d set out to achieve”, including targeting more civils and public sector work.

This week it also emerged Sir Robert McAlpine is carrying out a pre-construction role on a major hotel planned for Mayfair’s Hyde Park Corner.

The Hopkins-designed 190-room Peninsula London hotel site is a stone’s throw from Sir Robert McAlpine’s London headquarters.

Building understands the client Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH) is reviewing its tendering strategy and timeline meaning it is uncertain whether McAlpine will be retained for the main construction role. HSH declined to comment.