AECOM said on Dec. 10 that it reached a definitive agreement to sell its civil construction business, which includes California-based Shimmick Construction that it acquired for $175 million in 2017, to affiliates of infrastructure private equity investor Oroco Capital.

The purchase price for the deal, set to close in January, was not disclosed.

The divestiture follows the October sale of the AECOM power construction business to CriticalPoint Capital LLC, a Manhattan Beach, Calif. private equity investor. The unit has been relaunched as an independent EPC and consulting firm called United E&C Inc., based in Piscataway, N.J.

Scott Reeder, former AECOM senior vice president, is the new company's CEO.

The PE owner had also acquired, in 2017, Imperia Engineering Partners, a design and CM firm specializing in utiity, nuclear and other energy sector work.

The sales are focusing the firm "on our higher-margin and lower-risk professional services businesses," said AECOM's CEO Troy Rudd, elevated to the role earlier this year.

AECOM also is adding three new independent directors that expand its board to 11. Set to join on Dec. 14 is Lydia Kennard, a West Coast program and construction management consultant and former executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

Also named to the board are two former chief executives of professional services firms who will join officially after AECOM's annual meeting in February but are "onboarding immediately," the company said.

Diane Creel is former chairman and CEO of Ecovation, a wastewater management company later acquired by Ecolab, and previously chairman and CEO of Earth Tech, an engineering firm that AECOM later bought. She had been a director of URS Corp. and Foster Wheeler and now serves on the boards of Allegheny Technology, TimkenSteel and Enpro.

Creel and two other AECOM board members who were named in the spring, Jacqueline Hinman and Robert Card, are all management veterans of design firm CH2M.

The other just named director is Sander van’t Noordende, a Holland-based industrial engineering trained executive who was an operating group CEO at management consultant Accenture. He is a director of Micro Focus, a global infrastructure software company and of Out & Equal, a nonprofit advocacy group for LGBTQ workplace equality.

The moves appear to settle issues with Starboard, the hedge fund activist investor with a 5% stake in AECOM, whose board representative had resigned in June over the selection of Rudd as new CEO to succeed Michael Burke, said Andrew Wittmann, lead industry sector analyst for Baird Equity Research. He notes that seven members of AECOM's enlarged board were named in the last year.

Wittmann said the recent board appointments "are better aligned with AECOM's new strategy as a lower-risk, technical professional-services company."

According to the analyst, the added board members and the Dec. 3 decision by WSP Global Inc. to acquire privately-held consultant Golder for $1.14 billion are likely halting plans by the Montreal design giant to resume rumored acquisition talks with AECOM, which had apparently ended in recent months because of the pandemic.

The announcement "may further reduce odds of a near-term WSP combination as we sense that Starboard is on board with AECOM's stand-alone margin improvement and buyback strategy being executed," he said, adding "at this point we see little WSP premium remaining." 

Neither AECOM nor WSP have confirmed the talks.

AECOM also said it named Jeannette L. Peruchini managing director and director of interiors in Chicago for its design and consulting services group. She led the interior architecture practice at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in that city.


In other executive news, Mary C. Boyce, dean of the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, will become university provost and chief academic officer on July 1. In her current role since 2013, she has led major industry partnerships including Columbia's recent launch of its Center of Artificial Intelligence Technology with tech giant Amazon, says the school.

Boyce also was a key adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the controversial decision in 2019 to alter a long-planned upgrade of New York City's storm-damaged L train subway tunnel under the East River, supporting a plan, along with others, to forego a more extensive construction and demolition program and L train service shutdown. The project finished in April under budget and ahead of schedule.

Cuomo last month said the same approach should be used to upgrade the 113-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson River between the city and New Jersey instead of a planned $12-billion shutdown and rebuild that did not gain Trump administration support but is endorsed by President-elect Joe Biden.

The alternative, outlined in a U.K. consultant’s report, is opposed by New Jersey and Amtrak officials who say there are key differences in Hudson and L train tunnel infrastructure that would make service during construction infeasible.


St. Louis-based electric utility Ameren Corp. has created a new C-suite position to advance its renewable energy initiatives, naming Ajay Arora as its first chief renewable development officer. He will report to firm Chairman Marty Lyons. Arora had been vice president of power operations and energy management since 2018, and also served as vice president of environmental services and generation resource planning. He will manage the utility's ambitious program, unveiled in September, to invest nearly $8 billion in renewable energy over the next 20 years.


Mark R. Koblos will join Bowman Consulting Group, Reston, Va., as executive vice president in charge of its mechanical, electrical and plumbing business group, following its Dec. 21 announced plan to acquire KTA, an MEP engineer of which he is CEO and founding partner. No transaction terms were disclosed. The deal is ser to close in early January, the companies say. Randolph L. Thompson, KTA president, joins Bowman as vice president and leader of its engineering and support staff. Bowman ranks at No. 154 on ENR's Top 500 Design Firms list, reporting $109 million in 2019 revenue. About 40 KTA employees will join Bowman, which has about 750 staff in 25 offices with a focus on consulting services in energy, infrastructure, real estate and environmental management.


Gary Ellis, president of Jacobsen Construction Co., West Valley City, Utah, will gain the added role of CEO on Jan. 1. He succeeds Douglas C. Welling, who is retiring after nine years in the position. Jacobsen ranks at No. 174 on ENR’s Top 400 Contractors list, reporting $561.3 million in 2019 revenue, mostly in the buildings sector. Ellis was named president in July.


Ayanna Howard will join Ohio State University as dean of its College of Engineering on March 1. She is chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing and founder-president of Zyrobotics, a university spin-off firm. Among other roles there, she was program director of the first multidisciplinary robotics PhD program at a U.S. university. Ohio State’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, with more than 10,000 students, rank in the top 20 among U.S. public universities by U.S. News & World Report.


Black & Veatch has named Christopher Murphy as chief technology office. He was a global IT leader for solutions architecture at Coca-Cola Co. from 2011 to 2019. In that role, he led and influenced technologies and technical services used for strategic initiatives.


Santa Clara, Calif., concrete and foundation contractor Joseph J. Albanese Inc. has elevated President Philip Albanese to CEO. In that role, he succeeds Kevin Albanese, his brother, who the firm says is leaving to pursue other interests. The contractor ranks at No. 90 on ENR’s Top 600 Specialty Contractors list, reporting about $312 million in 2019 revenue. Kevin Albanese had been CEO of the 850-employee firm since 2014.