Perspectives from ISB

Bechtel Corporation is the largest construction and civil engineering firm, as well as the 5th-largest privately owned company in the United States. It was founded by Warren A Bechtel in 1898. Over the last 118 years this family run business has completed a number of signature projects including the Hoover dam (1936); Trans-Arabian pipeline (1950); and the Channel Tunnel (1994). The company had $40 million in revenues in 2015.

Apart from a brief exception, the company has been led by a succession of four family CEOs. Now as per reports, by the start of 2018, Warren Bechtel’s great-great-grandson Brendan Bechtel is expected to be the next CEO of the firm. In late 2013 his father, Riley Bechtel, who had served for 24 years as CEO, retired four years early at 61 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since then, Bill Dudley, a 35-year veteran of Bechtel, has been CEO. Dudley, 64, is scheduled to retire no later than the end of 2017 and could step down sooner.

Brenden faces a tough future as major infrastructure projects around the world have been put on hold due to drop in commodity prices. The company also faces stiff competition from cheaper Chinese construction companies. However as per Brenden, being a family firm has its advantages, as it does not have to increase sales every quarter to satisfy the capital markets. He is planning to adopt a long term patient strategy without compromising on margins.


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