HEWDEN Stuart chief executive Alistair Napier has left the plant hirer 'to pursue other business opportunities'.
Mr Napier's abrupt departure comes three years after he was brought in to create an integrated national business and is being seen as an attempt to restore City confidence in the plant hirer.
Mr Napier oversaw the restructuring of Hewden's tool hire business into a national operation and the integration of its operations under a single brand. But Hewden's share price plummeted from 170p a year ago to around 80p.
Last month Hewden posted pretax profits of £40.5 million for the year ending March 31, down by 3 per cent, due to a dramatic drop in its powered access and crane hire businesses. It also withdrew from its rail hire operation.
Non-executive chairman Sir John Robb takes over as chief executive until a replacement is found - which the company says will be before the end of the year.
Analysts believe Mr Napier paid the price for not creating a national company quickly enough.
One said: 'He made a lot of sound judgements, but opted for general surgery rather than anything more radical. He knew it would require a lot of change but he didn't have time to address all the issues.'
The slump in the powered access market has also seen the withdrawal of national hirer Vibroplant from the sector. The hirer has sold off its entire fleet, blaming poor returns.