Leighton’s chairman steps down after a year in position

Leighton Holdings, Australia’s largest construction group, is undergoing another round of boardroom changes after its chairman announced this week that he was stepping down with immediate effect. 

The move was not unexpected: Bob Humphris announced that he would retire at the company’s annual meeting in May. He had been in the post for just over a year having replaced the former chairman Stephen Johns in March 2013.

Bob Humphris, chairman of Leighton since March 2013

Hochtief CEO Marcelino Fernández Verdes is now CEO of Leighton, as well

Johns was ousted from his position, along with directors Wayne Osborne and Ian Macfarlane, after a "breakdown in relations" with the leadership of Leighton’s majority shareholder, the German firm Hochtief.

Humphris was a former managing director of Australian mining company Peabody Resources, and was already an independent director of Leighton.

Hochtief bought a controlling share in Leighton last year. Since then the German contractor and its Spanish parent, ACS, have sought to extend their control over the company’s management and to increase their shareholding. In March, Hochtief chief executive Marcelino Fernández Verdes replaced Hamish Tyrwhitt as Leighton’s chief executive.

Leighton also appointed two non-executive directors to its board. Russell Chenu, a former chief financial officer of fibre cement maker James Hardie, will chair the audit committee and ethics and compliance committee, and Trevor Gerber, a former director of developer Westfield, will chair the remuneration and nominations committee. 

At its AGM last month, Leighton said it was on track to deliver its guidance of underlying net profit after tax within the range of $540m to $620m for the full year.

• For background see "Australia’s last stand"

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