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Weir FD steps up as CEO in second stab at top spot

Keith Cochrane

Scotland’s iconic engineering group Weir is on the hunt for
a new finance director as the FTSE-250 business has promoted its FD, Keith
Cochrane, to the chief executive role. He starts on 2 November.

Current chief executive Mark Selway, who has led the board for eight years,
will return to his homeland as CEO of Australian construction materials group
Boral and leave Weir on 31 December, allowing for a handover period.

The group hailed Keith’s successes in a ‘rigorous’ development programme that
has seen it sell off underperforming parts of the business and restructure to
focus on core markets, and said he had made a significant contribution to the
company’s success because he had been active at an operational level.

“Keith is ideally placed to succeed Mark given his global experience,
knowledge of Weir’s core markets and his outstanding leadership qualities,”
Weir’s chairman, Lord Smith of Kelvin, added.

Cochrane spoke exclusively to Financial Director in June this year
about how he had worked to cut risk from its pension scheme and renegotiated the
company’s banking arrangements before the credit crunch took hold. But asked if
he wanted to be CEO, he said: “No. I enjoy the FD role, particularly in an
organisation like Weir where it gives you breadth of coverage. I think the
financial side is fascinating and in the modern world where you partner with
your chief executive, frankly, you can get almost as much exposure being an FD
as you can being a CEO. I’m pretty comfortable.”

This will be Cochrane’s second time as CEO having being Brian Souter’s choice
to run transport business Stagecoach in 2000 ­ where he had been FD for five
years ­ in one of its most troubled periods, when its American business was
haemhoragging cash. He left Stagecoach in 2002 to become director of group
financial reporting at ScottishPower, but was passed over for the group FD role
when Simon Lowth, then a McKinsey consultant and now CFO at AstraZeneca, was
brought in for the job.

“I’d be daft if I said I didn’t want it,” he told Financial Director
of his wish to become ScottishPower FD at the time. “it would have been
agreeable.”

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