QinetiQ CEO LOSS IS BALFOUR BEATTY’S GAIN
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
13 Oct 14. Leo Quinn’s departure from the multinational defence technology and research company QinetiQ will be felt deeply by the Farnborough and London based company but it is undoubtedly a great coup for the much troubled civil engineering and infrastructure company Balfour Beatty that has been searching for a new CEO for a great many months. That the latter’s long search for a new CEO is now over requires that QinetiQ begins the process of searching for a new leader to further develop the strong company that Leo Quinn leaves behind. I wish them the best of luck because people with Quinn’s vision and capabilities are very hard to find. I may sincerely hope that whoever they do eventually find has innovation, research and technology development blood running through the veins not to mention the ability to develop and run agreed strategy, please investors and motivate staff.
Balfour Beatty shareholders meanwhile can be very satisfied that in Leo Quinn they have acquired a CEO of very many qualities, who is as personable as he is charming and whose experience happens to also include turning struggling companies around.
I would have to admit that the announcement of Quinn’s departure from QinetiQ this morning did come as something of a surprise but having been there since 2009 and completed the job that he was brought in to do perhaps I should not have been so surprised by the decision to move on. Neither is the move a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire because although Balfour Beatty has severe problems to resolve not least of which is a black profit hole it is a sound international business and one that is very well respected as being one of the worlds’ leading infrastructure companies.
Leo Quinn can hardly be accused of leaving QinetiQ, where he has been CEO for the past five years, in anything other than very good heart. To get to that position has been a long and sometimes difficult haul and one that did not always receive the full support of a skilled workforce that, in terms of cost burden, was rather too heavy for the company to carry. Having rid itself of the US acquisitions made by previous management over the past couple of years and that not only had little if any synergy with the rest of the group but arguably had forced QinetiQ into the trap of attempting to both develop and sell technologies that it has designed, Quinn can rightly claim to have not only brought QinetiQ back to its innovation and partnering roots with governments, departments of government such as the UK MOD and commercial entities but also to have made the company far more efficient and competitive at what it does. Clearly it did not take that long for Quinn to realise that in an organisation steeped in research and technology development bright people such as engineers and academics should stick to what they know and do best rather than attempt to be all things to all men.
Having recently confirmed full year guidance on the back of anticipated strong performance across Europe, Middle East and Africa business areas and that these should override the potential of more subdued future activity anticipated from the US the immediate picture for QinetiQ looks sound enough. Bid rumours have often surrounded QinetiQ over the years and who knows, with the company having many attractions and now being lean and mean, one day there might well be some real bid activity.
Having joined the company as its CEO in November 2009 replacing Graham Love who had through some very difficult times and sometimes facing up to problems that were self-made seen the company not only through the transition from being the state owned Defence Research Agency to that of QinetiQ and becoming a public company in the process Leo Quinn wasted no time in setting about the task of cutting operating costs by 10%.
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