THE CHIEF executive and man who led a management buy-in of the Benson Group has suddenly left the company.
Alistair Sloan has parted company with the contractor and his role will be filled by non-executive director Tony Rieger, who takes over as interim chief executive while the firm searches for a permanent replacement.
Benson Group chairman George Kynoch said: 'We don't want to elaborate on the reasons but I can confirm Alistair is leaving his role as chief executive and Tony has been appointed as an interim.
'Our overall strategy remains the same and our regional divisions are working well.
'We are very pleased with the 2004 performance but these things happen at group level when changes are made.'
Mr Sloan said he would have to seek legal advice before commenting on the move.
His departure has come as a shock to rival firms.
One source said: 'This is a big surprise.As far as we were concerned Alistair was the driving force behind a lot of what Benson are about.'
Mr Sloan led the management buy-in of Benson in 1998 after a successful stint with Morgan Sindall.
He was backed by venture capitalist 3i in the £2.6 million takeover of the contractor, which was turning over £12 million at the time.
Mr Sloan also took a 30 per cent stake in Benson, which made a gross profit of £13.3 million for the year to December 31, 2003 on a turnover of £125 million.
That success was based on the new regional operations, which successfully countered a £571,000 loss at the original firm during the year.
The accounts show that the highest paid director at the firm earned £142,000 in 2003.
The firm specialises in new build, refurbishment and fit-out work from its regional offices in Southampton, Reigate, Maidenhead, Hatfield, Solihull and Leeds.