Change of chief executive announced at two of Scotland's largest listed businesses

Two of Scotland’s largest listed companies are about to have new chief executives at the helm.

Aberdeen-headquartered transport heavyweight FirstGroup said Graham Sutherland had been appointed as its new boss following a “comprehensive search process”. He will join the board as an executive director and take up the role of chief executive on May 16.

The group has been in the activist investor firing line in recent years, with previous chief executive Matthew Gregory departing after less than three years in the post and in the wake of demands for his resignation from a major shareholder.

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Sutherland was chief executive of telecommunications company KCOM Group from 2018 until its sale to a Macquarie-managed infrastructure fund. Prior to this, he held a number of senior executive roles within BT Group over the course of 12 years. These included as chief executive of the BT business and public sector division.

Aberdeen-headquartered FirstGroup operates one of the biggest bus fleets in the UK and now has a new chief executive. Picture: John Devlin

David Martin, FirstGroup’s executive chairman, said: “Graham joins at an exciting and important time for FirstGroup which is now a focused and resilient business with a strong platform from which to develop.

“I am confident that Graham is ideally suited to take the group forward and I look forward to working with him to maximise the widespread opportunities that exist for growth and sustainable value creation.”

Sutherland added: “With its prime positions in bus and rail, strong balance sheet and clear purpose, FirstGroup has many opportunities ahead and I look forward to helping shape its exciting future.”

Meanwhile, fellow Aberdeen-headquartered company Wood, the global energy and engineering services group, said its chief executive, Robin Watson, had advised the board of his intention to retire.

The process to replace him will now commence and Watson, who was appointed to the top job in January 2016, will remain in his role until the successful candidate is in place.

Watson said: “2022 marks my tenth year on the Wood board and my seventh as chief executive. When I think back to the business I joined, it was largely focused on the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico and was almost entirely an upstream oilfield services business.

“I reflect with pride on the business we have now and the opportunities we continue to unlock in some very exciting and relevant energy markets: carbon capture, hydrogen, bio-refining, minerals processing, solar and wind energy - all alongside our well-established conventional energy business, helping our clients on their own transition journeys.

“As such, I have shared with the board that I consider the sale of our built environment business as marking the start of the next strategic phase for Wood and an appropriate time for me to step down as chief executive.”

News of his departure came as Wood reported full-year revenue of $6.4 billion (£4.9bn), down 14 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Adjusted underlying earnings were down by almost 10 per cent on a like-for-like basis to $554 million.

Watson said: “2021 was a challenging year for the group. Despite this, we ended the year with positive momentum and a growing order book.”

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