Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Who are the best-paid construction plc executives?

Corporate pay packets are being scrutinised like never before. CN analysed the accounts of the biggest listed construction firms to reveal who earns the most among the top bosses.

Executive pay is under the spotlight, as shareholders rebel against soaring pay packets and the government attempts to clamp down on corporate excess.

Almost three-quarters of Royal Mail shareholders rejected its directors’ remuneration report last week, with CEO Rico Back set to pocket a basic salary of £640,000 rising to almost £3m with incentives for hitting bonus targets.

AstraZeneca, Cineworld and Persimmon are some of the other firms to have witnessed shareholder revolts this year over how they reward their top bosses.

In construction, Carillion’s collapse sparked questions over why the contractor handed large bonuses to its bosses despite rising debt. Interserve meanwhile has raised eyebrows by rewarding new chief executive Debbie White with a hefty bonus despite turnaround efforts being in their infancy.

Balfour Beatty also suffered a minor shareholder revolt over pay in May, as almost 14 per cent of investors voted against its remuneration report.

The prevailing atmosphere of discontent has come as the government has stepped up efforts to tackle corporate governance issues and convince voters it is on the side of the wider workforce.

When Theresa May took power two years ago, she vowed to tackle the “unacceptable face of capitalism” in boardrooms – in what was seen as an unusual move for a Conservative prime minister.

cn pay quinn

cn pay quinn

Balfour CEO Leo Quinn is the best-paid boss among construction plcs

Wates chairman James Wates was asked to lead a corporate governance review by government and last month published a “governance principles for large private companies” consultation.

On remuneration, it said the pay and conditions of the wider workforce should be considered when it came to executive pay.

A final report will be published later this year.

Government pressure, including forcing companies to publish the pay ratio between their highest and lowest earners, mean that firms know they will be monitored more closely than ever. Legislation for pay ratio proposals were set out in parliament last month and the law is due to take effect next January.

So how do the UK’s top listed construction firms compare?

Top of the league

Construction News has compiled a top 20 of the highest-paid executives in the CN100’s publicly listed firms.

Rank Executive Company Role Basic salary  (£)Total package (£)
1 Leo Quinn  Balfour Beatty  CEO  800,000 5,393,891
2 John Morgan  Morgan Sindall  CEO 491,000 2,578,000
3 Steve Crummett Morgan Sindall  FD  391,000 1,997,000
4 Philip Harrison  Balfour Beatty  CFO 400,000  1,896, 861
5 Andrew Wyllie  Costain  CEO  468,013 1,666, 763
6 Robin Watson  Wood Group  CEO  600,000 1,420,000
7 John Sutcliffe  Henry Boot  CEO 388,000 1,299,000
8 Haydn Mursell  Kier  CEO 590,000 1,234,000
9 Ian Lawson  Severfield  CEO (now left the company) 373,000 1,205,000
10 Anthony Bickerstaff  Costain  CFO 310,107 1,107, 319
11 Peter Truscott  Galliford Try  CEO  515,000 1,046,000
12 Ian Cochrane  Severfield  COO 293,000 874,000
13 David Kemp  Wood Group  CFO 390,000 844,000
14 Bev Dew  Kier  FD  390,000 742,000
15 Alan Dunsmore  Severfield  FD (now CEO)  248,000 732,000
16 Graham Prothero  Galliford Try  FD 386,000 719,000
17 Claudio Veritiero Kier  Group strategy and corporate development director 364,000 689,000
18 Nigel Turner  Kier  Development, property and business services director  364,000 683,000
19 Nigel Brook  Kier  Construction and Infrastructure Services 364,000 674,000
20 Mark Watkin Jones  Watkin Jones  CEO  325,000 651,777
*The data compiled in the table is based on analysis of the companies’ most recent annual reports. The final compensation package figures include elements such as annual bonus, pension allowance, long-term incentive plans and share awards. The plcs are taken from the annual CN100 in 2017

It shows Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn to be the best-paid boss among them. Mr Quinn’s reward for his turnaround efforts at the contractor, which had been mired in profit warnings before he took over in 2015, was a total pay packet of £5,393,891 in 2017 – nearly quadruple his pay for the previous year.

Mr Quinn, a qualified civil engineer, saw his pay boosted by a long-term incentive plan based on the FTSE-250 firm’s share price, which netted him an extra £2.1m. On top of that he received an extra £1.2m-worth of shares to compensate for those he gave up when he left defence technology company Qinetiq to join the UK’s largest contractor.

His annual bonus, based on the group’s profit, cash position and his strategic goals, more than doubled to £582,000.

cn pay harrison

cn pay harrison

Prior to Mr Quinn taking over, Balfour’s share price had dipped to as low as 152p. It currently stands at around 290p, but is still a long way off the pre-financial crash high of 418p. Balfour’s boss has been carrying out an overhaul, dubbed Build to Last, following a string of profit warnings prior to his return to the business where he started his career.

The contractor’s impressive turnaround has also earned its finance director Phil Harrison more than the respective chief executives of Costain, Galliford Try and Kier. Mr Harrison, who was the fourth-highest paid executive on our list, received a total compensation package of £1,896,861. Mr Harrison’s basic salary was £400,000, which was boosted by a cash bonus of £288,000 – up from £112,992 the previous year.

Leo Quinn’s next nearest rival in the pay stakes, Morgan Sindall boss John Morgan, received £2.6m according to the firm’s most recent accounts – less than half the Balfour man’s total package. On top of a basic salary of £491,000, his total package was boosted by £1.4m of long-term incentives based on the group’s share price.

Below Balfour

Mr Morgan has been amply rewarded after Morgan Sindall’s profit last year jumped 46 per cent to £66.1m, while revenue rose 9 per cent to £2.79bn as the firm returned to a stronger footing after clearing problem contracts.

Morgan Sindall’s strong performance in the past two years helped the group’s share price approach the heights it achieved prior to the 2008 financial crash. Its performance has meant the contractor’s finance director, Steve Crummett, is the highest-paid non-CEO with a total package of nearly £2m. Mr Crummet’s basic pay was boosted by an extra £1.1m from a long-term incentive plan and a bonus of £489,000.

cn pay wyllie

cn pay wyllie

Another recent good news story has come at Costain, where long-serving boss Andrew Wyllie has helped steer a turnaround. Mr Wyllie, who received a total package of £1,666,763, has been through plenty of ups and downs during his 13-year tenure at the contractor. But the last two years has seen a steady increase in the firm’s share price as it has started to focus on long-term relationships with blue-chip clients, delivering major infrastructure projects.

Last year, Mr Wyllie picked up an annual bonus of £572,125, up from £519,581 the prior year. His second-in-command, CFO Anthony Bickerstaff, also made it into the top 10 with a total package of £1.1m – a healthy 53 per cent jump on his 2016 total compensation of £725,180. Both men’s remuneration was boosted by a long-term performance plan incentive, which they missed out on in 2016.

Engineering giant Wood Group also rewarded its leaders well last year, as CEO Robin Watson netted a total package of £1.4m. Mr Watson has faced opposition from shareholders over plans to increase his pay following job losses at the group, which last year completed the £2.2bn acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler.

From 1 January 2018 Mr Watson’s basic salary rose from £600,000 to £690,000. He also picked up a £623,000 bonus last year. CFO David Kemp meanwhile took home a total package of £844,000 in 2017.

Inspire Me Breakfast workshop 180301 DSC 037

Inspire Me Breakfast workshop 180301 DSC 037

Inspire Me

No women feature among the top 20 best-paid executives across the CN100 plc companies.

With diversity in boardrooms a key concern in construction, Construction News’ Inspire Me campaign aims to empower women with the knowledge and confidence to advance their careers to senior positions within the construction sector.

Find out more:

One under-the-radar figure who has crept into the top 10 is Henry Boot boss John Sutcliffe. He received a total package of £1.3m, helped by a £461,000 bonus, after a strong 2017 for the Sheffield-based group.

Henry Boot saw annual pre-tax profit jump 40 per cent to £55.4m in its most recent results, while revenue increased 33 per cent to £408.5m. The 132-year-old firm, which covers construction, development and plant hire, benefited from projects being delivered ahead of schedule. Its share price has been on the up for the past two years and the firm is already making positive noises about its 2018 performance.

Despite overseeing just a fraction of the revenue generated by Kier, Henry Boot’s boss secured more compensation than his counterpart at the Bedfordshire-based giant.

Kier pay slides

Kier chief Haydn Mursell bagged £1.2m, but this was down slightly on 2016. While Kier reported rising revenue and profit in 2017, the contractor has seen its share price slide in the past year amid concerns over its debt levels. However, Mr Mursell has shrugged off worries over the firm’s finances, telling Construction News in March he was “very pleased” with its trading performance despite debt rising by a third in its latest half-year results.

His finance director Bev Dew was 14th on our list with a total package of £742,000. Kier is the only company to extensively detail the pay of executive directors below the rank of CEO, CFO or FD, which means three of its other directors make the top 20.

cn pay mursell

cn pay mursell

Former Severfield boss Ian Lawson, who stepped down from the firm in March due to ill health, made it into the top 10 thanks to a £359,000 bonus on top of his basic salary of £373,000. His replacement Alan Dunsmore took home a total package of £732,000 in the company’s 2017 financial year, meaning he finished 15th on our list.

Galliford Try boss Peter Truscott saw his overall package fall to £1.0m, down from £1.5m the previous year, with his annual bonus almost halving to £357,000. The Uxbridge-based contractor reported a 60 per cent drop in pre-tax profit in its last full-year after a one-off charge of £98m, partly relating to the troubled Aberdeen bypass project.

Mr Truscott said at the time of its results last September it would look to focus on lower-risk public sectors instead of large, fixed-price infrastructure schemes. Galliford FD Graham Prothero saw his total package drop 37 per cent to £719,000, while his annual bonus stood at £179,000 – down from £271,000 the previous year.

Bangor-based contractor Watkin Jones is represented on our list with CEO Mark Watkin Jones 20th with total pay of £651,777. He is due to step down at the company once a replacement is found, having spent 15 years at the helm.

North Midland boss John Homer was just outside the top 20, with a total pay packet of £493,000.

The bosses of the CN100’s other listed firms – Lakehouse, Mears and Van Elle – also failed to make the top 20.

Interserve exception

One other notable absentee from the list is Interserve, as both the firm’s CEO and finance boss have yet to complete a full year.

Combined, former boss Adrian Ringrose and new CEO Debbie White earned a total package of £985,000 in 2017.

However, Ms White and Mark Whiteling have already attracted opprobrium for their pay packets. Ms White picked up a total package of £525,897 in the four months she spent at Interserve in 2017. This included a £270,000 bonus on top of a base salary of £216,667.

The former Sodexo boss has a base salary of £767,000 for 2018, which is second only to Leo Quinn at Balfour Beatty. FD Mr Whiteling bagged total compensation of £246,433 for three months work in 2017, including a bonus of £126,562.

cn pay truscott

cn pay truscott

No doubt shareholders will be keen to see how the pair perform for the rest of this year, as the contractor’s share price currently languishes at a near all-time low just over 65p. Investors may have been slightly perturbed to hear Ms White tell MPs last month that she was unaware of the firm’s financial situation before she joined.

It is notable that Ms White is the only woman to feature among the best-paid executives, with diversity in boardrooms remaining high on the political agenda.

When construction is compared with the pure housebuilding sector, the salaries of top executives pale in comparison. In the most notable example of late, Persimmon was forced to cut bonuses after outcry at the remuneration package on offer for its top brass.

More than 64 per cent of investors voted against the company’s pay report or abstained from voting in April. Chief executive Jeff Fairburn still received a £75m share bonus – instead of the £100m first proposed – as part of a scheme for the firm’s top staff that saw three executives receive a combined £104m in pay and shares. Berkeley founder and chairman Tony Pidgley meanwhile received a total package of £29m last year.

Outside of the construction sector, Marks & Spencer has already made a symbolic move by cancelling the annual bonuses of its top executives as it faces plunging profits.

And as the aftermath of Carillion’s collapse persists, its former executives have mostly defended the actions they took to protect their executive pay as the company faced collapse.

With the focus on executive pay showing no sign of abating, leaders at the UK’s top construction plcs will be watched closely as pressure increases on firms to justify rewarding bosses in an appropriate way.

*The data compiled in the table is based on analysis of the companies’ most recent annual reports. The final compensation package figures include elements such as annual bonus, pension allowance, long-term incentive plans and share awards. The plcs are taken from the annual CN100 in 2017. The 2018 CN100 will be published in September.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.