Bruce Russell, chairman and managing director of Taylor Woodrow Construction, is retiring after less than two years in the job.

Russell, who is 55 years old and has been with Taylor Woodrow for more than 30 years, is taking early retirement “to follow his many interests and activities outside the group”, a Taywood spokesperson said.

The surprise announcement of his retirement comes as the group moves away from lowest-price tendered work towards fee-based work, as well as housing, facilities management and property development.

Denis MacDaid, who has been with the company since 1965, will replace Russell as construction managing director on an interim basis. Russell’s main board responsibilities will be temporarily assumed by group chief executive Keith Egerton.

The choice of a permanent replacement for Russell is thought to be between MacDaid, who has been deputy managing director for two years and was made director responsible for building and civil engineering operations in May, and an appointee from outside the construction industry.

One of Russell’s roles outside Taywood was chair of the Export Group for Constructional Industries, a body representing UK construction firms working abroad.

He joined the main board in 1996 when he was made international director. Since his promotion to managing director and chairman in December 1997, he has been the public face of Taywood’s construction division. He oversaw the merger of the international and UK construction businesses and a culture change programme to improve communication between the two.

His retirement follows the announcement in May that 250 jobs would go from within the construction division.