James L. “Jim” Lammie, 91, a West Point engineering graduate and former president, CEO and non-executive chair of Parsons Brinckerhoff, who grew the transportation consultant into a global giant before its sale to U.K. contractor Balfour Beatty in 2009, died on Nov. 9 in Atlantic Beach, Fla., says WSP, PB's current parent firm.
Lammie joined PB in 1975 as a retired U.S. Army colonel after a 21-year career in the Corps of Engineers, where he served as leader of a Vietnam construction battalion and as commander and district engineer in San Francisco.
At PB, Lammie was involved in management of major transportation construction projects that included the $14-billion Central Artery/Tunnel in Boston; San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit extension program; Atlanta's MARTA rail network and the $8-billion Taipei, Taiwan transit system.
In his C-suite positions at the firm, Lammie “nearly doubled the organization’s revenue to push the firm, founded in 1885, into its role as a global changemaker,” says WSP.
Lammie stepped down as CEO in 1996 and took a role as non-executive chairperson. In a 2004 ENR article, he called for more industry attention to sustainability, noting the need for more “best practices and innovative ideas" and playing down fears of high added costs. Said Lammie: "The most important reason of all is that it is the ethical and right thing to do."
By 2008, despite more than a century of design innovation and project contract wins that expanded global staff to 13,000 and generated $2.3 billion in revenue, PB needed to tap deeper pockets to spur growth and protect assets.
Concern grew with the firm’s $50-million financial settlement that year following a fatal tunnel collapse in 2006 on the Central Artery/Tunnel project in Boston. PB was project managing consultant in joint venture with Bechtel Group. The engineering firm also faced pension obligations related to its U.K.-based units.
“Our goal was to protect shareholder value,” said Lammie in a 2010 ENR profile, returning to an active firm role to find a potential suitor that was a financial and cultural fit. PB linked in 2009 to U.K. contractor Balfour Beatty, with which it had a past working relationship, in a $626-million acquisition to become a wholly owned subsidiary. At the time, analysts expected the PB-led unit to deliver a 7% profit margin.
PB was spun off by Balfour Beatty in 2014 as the parent focused on its British construction businesses and pursuing growth elsewhere—resulting in a $1.35 billion sale to WSP.
PB reported total engineering and construction revenue in 2013 of more than $2.6 billion. According to sources, there were numerous strategic buyers and private equity firms that had been interested. WSP termed the acquisition "transformational."
Industry recognition of Lammie includes an American Society of Civil Engineers lifetime achievement award, Society of American Military Engineers Golden Eagle Award and election to the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Construction. He was also a well-regarded academician and lecturer, says WSP, with an endowed chair in civil engineering at West Point and frequent teaching and lecture roles at other major universities.
"Jim Lammie was one of the most impactful leaders of engineering in the past 50 years," says Robert Prieto, a 20-year PB management veteran and a former company chair. "He transitioned a small New York civil engineering consultant into a global powerhouse."
Prieto adds: "Jim’s strength was a combination of personal ethics and drive matched with his empowerment of those around him. He defined the word 'leadership.'"