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Ken Dalton steps down as Aecom Europe chief executive

Aecom Europe has begun the hunt for a new chief executive after Ken Dalton stepped down last week to take up a new role as chief executive of the consultant’s global building engineering business line.

Dalton’s move was the most significant change in a restructuring of the consultant’s European operation that will see a new chief executive work alongside Bill Hanway as executive director of operations for Europe in a new “Office of the Chief Executive”.

The firm said an announcement concerning a new chief executive for Aecom in Europe will be made “in due course”. 

The restructuring plans are outlined in an email to staff sent by Hanway last week and seen by NCE.

Hanway said the restructuring was designed to tackle a “lack of balance” created by having a single large region in the UK/Ireland.

By splitting the UK/Ireland region into north and south, the firm will create equivalent regions of approximately 1,500 staff in each. Assumed growth in the CIS and EU regions will ultimately create a “balanced geography” across all four regions, he said.

“In this role, I hope to be able to work closely with all of you to expand into the EU and CIS while strengthening our position in the UK/Ireland markets,” said Hanway.

However, he warned that workload remained uncertain.

“In a summary review of the first six months of this financial year, it has been a difficult time for all of us. We should now look forward to the remainder this year and on to FY11 with a sense of confidence that we have the right foundation to face our next challenge.

“But this foundation is far from secure and the impact of next month’s UK elections and the pressures of price-based competitive tendering will continue to be of concern.”

The restructuring will see the firm adopt a new matrix structure with the business units reporting upwards to one of four regional managing directors and sideways to one of seven busness line MDs. These business line MDs in turn will report to global business line chief executives.

As global building engineering chief executive Dalton will now be responsible for developing the firm’s strategy in building engineering, identifying future merger and acquisition (M&A) opportunities, making key hires and winning roles on “mega-projects”.

“The selection of Dalton for this key leadership role emphasises the significant growth opportunity that exists in the global building engineering space,” said Aecom president and chief executive John Dionisio.

Dalton will assist Aecom’s M&A team with the integration of new M&A partners in Europe and will also continue to serve on the Aecom operating committee. He led the 2001 the merger of Oscar Faber and 2002 mergers of Maunsell and Metcalf & Eddy. He was also responsible for the growth of the business across the UK and Ireland, and its expansion into Europe and the CIS, including the strategic mergers with Bullen and Savant.

Last year Aecom companies Edaw, ENSR, ERA, Faber Maunsell and Savant all adopted the Aecom brand. The inclusion of these firms saw the parent company fee income as reported in NCE’s Consultants File grow 54% to £290M in 2009.

However, the firm has suffered badly in the recession and in November Dalton was forced make 350 job cuts in the UK and Europe. This was on top of 119 job cuts made in late 2008. At the time Dalton said the UK and Ireland market was “extremely difficult and any recovery will be fragile over an extended period”. Areas hit hardest by the recession included the buildings sector as well as water, transportation and design & planning.

The move was criticised by UK staff, but Dionisio stressed that Dalton’s personal leadership style was a key part of developing Aecom’s culture in Europe.

“Ken has a talent for inspiring people to realise their own potential,” he said. “His enthusiasm and commitment was instrumental in Faber Maunsell being named as one of the Best Companies to Work For in the UK and Europe for several years in succession. Additionally, his personal leadership style has helped to make open communication a key element of Aecom’s culture in Europe.”

“It has been a privilege to serve as chief executive of Aecom in Europe,” said Dalton. “I am very proud of our people and what they have achieved. We have worked very hard to build Aecom’s presence in Europe and I’d like to thank everyone for their commitment and support to the company.

“I now look forward to leading the expansion and growth of Aecom’s global building engineering business line as we advance sustainable building solutions around the world.”   

Dalton will remain based in Scotland and will take over from Steve Hodkinson, who launched and managed the building engineering business line. Hodkinson will remain European building engineering MD and will continue work with Dalton on the future development of the business, focusing on growing opportunities and capability across the business line.


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