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Willmott Dixon hires former Morgan Sindall chief executive

Former Morgan Sindall group chief executive Paul Smith has been appointed chief operating officer of Willmott Dixon’s support services division.

Mr Smith will initially work alongside support services chief executive Chris Durkin as part of a “planned transition”, which will see Mr Smith take over when Mr Durkin retires from the role at the end of the year.

Support services operates through two companies: the repairs and maintenance Partnerships business and the £110m Energy Services business.

Posting annual results last week, the contractor said the support services division was “catching its breath” as it works through some difficult contracts.

Mr Durkin has worked at Willmott Dixon for 30 years and will remain with the firm as a non-executive director at Support Services.

Mr Smith was at the helm of Morgan Sindall for nearly 10 years, as well as working as managing director at Accord Group. He will also join the main Willmott Dixon board.

Willmott Dixon group chief executive Rick Willmott said: “This is a plan that we have been working towards for some time.

“It’s not an easy task to find the right person to replace Chris; however, in Paul we have found an ideal candidate and he’ll work closely with Chris and I as COO this year to ensure a seamless transition to divisional chief executive.”

While posting a 26 per cent drop in group pre tax profits last week on flat revenue of £1bn, Willmott Dixon said support services had made the least progress last year, with Partnerships preoccupied with “turnaround” on a number of new housing maintenance contracts, which have proved more challenging than expected and taken up “disproportionate resource and management time”.

Mr Willmott added: “Given his previous track record, it is great news that we have acquired the services of Paul to oversee the next phase of support services’ growth; he is a fine addition for the group and I am looking forward to working with him.

“I’m also pleased we’ll retain Chris’ experience as a non-executive director at support services once Paul becomes divisional chief executive next year, he has made a huge impact to the growth of Willmott Dixon over the past three decades and leaves a strong legacy for us.”

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