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Poor health forces Bechtel fourth-gen to step down

Riley Bechtel

Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest family businesses in the US, is to appoint its first non-family chief executive and president, after fourth-geneneration Riley Bechtel announced he was stepping down due to health problems.

Bechtel, 61, who will remain chairman of the board of directors, had been at the helm of the engineering and construction business for nearly 25 years. He will be replaced by Bill Dudley, who has worked at the company since 1981 and has been president and chief operating officer since 2008. Bechtel reported revenues of $37.9 billion in 2012.

Bechtel said Dudley had been the top candidate for the next chief executive for some time and that the family firm approaches succession planning with diligence “to ensure smooth transitions in leadership.”

“Our plan includes provision for unplanned events, which we are now encountering. We are well prepared to act quickly in everybody’s best interest with no loss of momentum,” Bechtel added.

Dudley’s appointment was one of a number of leadership changes announced by the company this week, with Bechtel’s son Brendan being appointed president of the oil, gas and chemicals business, having previously served as general manager of the company’s liquefied natural gas business.

Brendan began working for the company on summer breaks during high school, and represents the fifth-generation of the family to serve in an executive leadership capacity. It is also the first time since the 1980s that three generations of the Bechtel family have served in leadership capacities. Stephen D Bechtel Jr, Brendan’s grandfather and Riley’s father, is a senior director on the board and has served more than 60 years with the company.

In a statement, Dudley said he looked forward to “furthering the successful path for Bechtel that Riley began more than 24 years ago as CEO, building on the foundation started by his great-grandfather in 1898”.

Bechtel employs 53,000 workers and has delivered more than 22,000 projects in 140 countries in all seven continents. 

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