The internationally expansive contractor ACS Group, Madrid, has tightened its control of German contractor Hochtief A.G. with the Nov. 20 appointment of Marcelino Fernández Verdes, a former executive of the Spanish firm, as the German company's new CEO.

His predecessor, Frank Stieler, held the post for only 19 months since replacing former Hochtief boss Herbert Lütkestratkötter, who quit after unsuccessfully resisting ACS's acquisition of a controlling interest in the German firm.

Fernández Verdes, whose appointment was unanimously supported by Hochtief's executive board, led the German firm's Americas division since joining the board in April.

Before that, he chaired ACS's main construction subsidiary, Dragados S.A., where he is credited with rapidly growing international sales by a factor of four, to $2.6 billion, mainly in the Americas. Schiavone Construction, Secaucus, N.J., was one of its key acquisitions.

But friction between Colorado-based Flatiron Corp., a U.S. unit of Hochtief, and its parent firm management may be growing.

Reports have speculated that Fernández Verdes influenced Flatiron's last-minute decision to pull its bond on the day of the July 27 submittal deadline from the bid that was to be submitted by its Dragados-led team for the $5-billion Tappan Zee bridge replacement project. As a result, the prequalified team did not submit its bid.

Flatiron CEO Tom Rademacher tells ENR that "the fact is that at the end of the day, this project did not pass our assessment. I was part of that decision. It was not handed down to us."

Changing corporate dynamics, however, may also have led to the departure or planned departure of several top Flatiron executives in recent weeks.

Sterling Construction Co. announced its hiring last month of former Flatiron IT Director Scott Demasse, while business development Executive Vice President Matthew Girard joined AECOM in October, that company confirms.

Western-region President Curtis Weltz is now at Walsh Group, according to an executive with that firm. A Flatiron spokeswoman confirms that Chief Operating Officer R.W. French will retire this month.

But Rademacher denies a report that he is leaving the firm to join Bechtel, which that company neither confirms nor denies.

"I am firmly committed to Flatiron and have been since the beginning," he tells ENR. "Although we have been through some changes this year, I look forward to leading the company into 2013 and well beyond." Rademacher says the firm's backlog is the largest in company history.

He says the firm has "recently reorganized and promoted key staff to new roles within the company."

As Hochtief CEO, Fernández Verdes is charged with completing the group's new strategy over the next several months. "Breaking up Hochtief is and will not be part [of it]," says an ACS statement.

Industry executives with knowledge of ACS management and operations in the U.S. but not authorized to speak for it believe the firm's U.S. holdings, which also include Turner Construction Corp., could be further integrated. A Turner spokesman says there have been no changes at the firm.

Rademacher disputes speculation about further integration, telling ENR, "Flatiron and Dragados are separate companies, with independent management teams. The companies are not integrated and are not in the process of being integrated."