Balfour Beatty picks troubleshooter Leo Quinn as its next boss

Leo Quinn, the chief executive of defence technology firm QinetiQ, has agreed to take on the toughest job in UK construction by becoming Balfour Beatty’s latest chief executive. 

The appointment ends a five-month period during which the UK’s largest contractor was getting by with a caretaker management team while, at the same time, dealing with a semi-hostile takeover bid from a rival contractor and managing a relationship with its shareholders made increasingly difficult by the company’s continuing problems with non-performing contracts in its domestic market.

Steve Marshall, Balfour’s chairman and chief executive, said he was "delighted" to welcome Quinn to Balfour. He said: "Leo is an outstanding individual with an excellent track record in improving the performance of major international businesses. He has the depth and breadth of experience and the drive to lead our company through the next stage of its development."

Quinn, who has a reputation as a turn-around specialist, said he was "resolute in my ambition to realise Balfour’s enormous potential for customers, employees and investors. The building blocks are there to give Balfour’s people the success they deserve and I am keen to work with them to create something significant and lasting."

Marshall, who has been acting as chairman and chief executive since the previous incumbent was sacked after a profit warning in May, has already said he will step down once a replacement is in place. Quinn will take over on 1 January next year. 

At the end of last month, Balfour issued its fifth profit warning in less than two years, which sent its share price plunging more than 20% to their lowest level since 2003. However, they rose more than 13% after the announcement of Quinn’s appointment. Shares in Qinetiq fell 8% on the news that Quinn was leaving after five years in charge.

Quinn, 59, is not a stranger to the construction industry, having been educated in civil engineering at Imperial College London. As well as a stint in charge of banknote printer De La Rue between 2005 and 2009 he spent 16 years in a variety of senior roles with Honeywell, the US maker of building control systems. He also spend four years as chief operating officer of Invensys’s production management business in the US. 

He will receive a basic annual salary of $1.2m in addition to a pension and other company benefits.

He will be faced with the task of determining Balfour’s grand strategy in the wake of the disposal of its Parsons Brinckerhoff professional services arm, which many regarded as the jewel in the group’s empire. At the end of last week, Balfour warned shareholders that failure to sell Parsons could result in the company defaulting on its debts.

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