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Stewart ousted from RMJM

June 14 2005

Brian Stewart, the former chief executive of RMJM, and the man responsible for leading RMJM’s contribution to the Holyrood project, has fallen out with the board of the company and is currently on gardening leave. Tony Kettle, an Edinburgh based director has now been appointed as the main point of contact for RMJM on the parliament building and appeared at the Scottish Design Awards to collect the trophies for the building.

Stewart has been noticeable by his absence for several months. Officially RMJM say he is on leave and he remains a director of the company. Earlier he was reported to be in Dubai and then to be taking time off to recuperate following the stresses and stains of Holyrood. However, Prospect has learnt that he has been forced out of his position as Chief Executive of the company by the RMJM board.

“There appears to have been a falling out at board level, a dispute about the direction in which the company is going. I think there is a dispute about the appointment of the financial director. It must have been some kind of falling out because Brian was not allowed to return to the office but was put on some kind of immediate gardening leave. There is no question of Brian going back to work, it is a question of working out a release package,” speculated one source.
In April 2002 RMJM Ltd undertook an equity-restructuring programme centred around a £500,000 management buy-in by a 20 strong consortium led by Stewart.

The deal was backed by the Bank of Scotland, who maintain a stake in the business. The arrangement meant that equity control of the company was transferred from retired shareholders to a team of managers and directors and provided capital for RMJM to expand globally. A dedicated holding company, Matthew, Johnson-Marshall Ltd, was set up to drive the group\'s strategic development and Sir Fraser Morrison, the construction tycoon, invested in the restructuring and agreed to be its non-executive chairman.

At the time Brian Stewart said: \"Our equity restructuring will, I am sure, contribute enormously to our further growth. We are delighted that Bank of Scotland has been so supportive of our ambitious plans. With this funding behind us, we expect to meet our goal of achieving increased market share through further development of our seamless range of complementary professional services. We are particularly pleased to have secured Sir Fraser Morrison\'s interest in chairing our holding company. His reputation is as a leader of change in the construction sector and there will be a unique synergy in his input to the further development of RMJM\'s strategy.\"

There have been suggestions that Stewart’s disagreements are with Sir Fraser Morrison. However, one company insider believes that Stewart was at loggerheads with other members of the board. “It would be very easy to blame Fraser Morrison as the majority shareholder, but in fact Morrison has a very light touch,” said the source. “Brian’s style was to be the all powerful Chief Executive, but when the Scottish board took over the business, with its 600 people across the world, it became more difficult. Brian tried to run everything including the parliament project, which created corporate difficulties,” he added.

In the past few months RMJM has lost a large number of the staff associated with Holyrood, most recently the project architect John Kinsey. RMJM director Paul Stallan argues the loss of staff represents the ‘inevitable churn’ that you might see after the completion of any large scale project. However, he also concedes that Holyrood has had an impact on the business.

“Post-parliament we are trying to re-build an image of the business in the UK, in Scotland and Edinburgh in particular,” he said. “Everyone in the business wants to see Brian get the credit that he deserves for the parliament project. Brian is one of the few individuals that I know that could have handled the pressure involved in the parliament project. The business has to respect and honour that, Holyrood was a completely thankless task,” added Stallan.

Rumours have been circulating that beyond RMJM, the Holyrood project has taken its toll on some of the key players in the project’s design team.. The idea that high profile figures have been sidelined because their employers considered association with the parliament as a commercial liability was denied by Alan Mack of Bovis. Mack recently returned to work after four months leave which he spent catching up with his family.

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