Stuart Graham, the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., native who has spent the last five years as chief of Stockholm-based contracting giant Skanska AB, announced Dec. 7 that he is resigning as president and CEO of the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. He is set to return to the U.S. and will remain involved with the firm as a senior advisor, says Skanska AB Chairman Sverker Martin-Lof.

Graham, who will be 62 in 2008, was the first American to lead the firm, which has grown to become the eighth largest global contractor, with $15.7-billion in total worldwide revenue and the second largest in contracting revenue outside its home country, with more than $12.3 billion, according to ENR’s current rankings of the largest firms.

"It’s time to go home," says Graham, who has a legal residence in Florida but will be operating out of the New York-New Jersey area, where Skanska’s two American business units are based.  He has three grown children, including Stuart Jr., a 30-year-old project superintendent for Whitestone, N.Y.-based heavy construction unit Skanska Civil.

Graham’s decision to leave the CEO post was known to the firm's board before the Dec. 7 announcement. A search for a successor, involving both internal and external candidates, is already under way. A Skanska spokesman would not speculate on the candidates but says the successor could be announced as early as next month or February. Graham notes that the company has a management succession plan but would not identify possible insiders who might be on track to succeed him. "There could be an outside candidate who is better," he contends.

Graham, who was tapped in 2002 to replace longtime Skanska CEO Claes Bjurk, joined the firm when it acquired Sordoni Construction Co., Parsippany, N.J., in the early 1980s. 

The spokesman says the firm did not anticipate any reorganization of its operations as a result of the executive change. One company executive says Graham highlighted risk management during his tenure as CEO and instituted stricter procurement controls. "He’s left the company in good shape," says the executive. The company is set to announce its latest year-end revenue and profit figures in early February, says the spokesman.

Graham did not elaborate on his planned new company role, but says he will stay on as CEO until a successor "is ready to take over." With America a key growth market for the parent firm, he hints that he could have a key role in Skanska's acquisition strategy in the U.S. Graham notes firm interest in possible expansion in California, Arizona and Texas.