Changing of the Guard at Bechtel Ends Family Leadership Legacy

By Nancy Amdur

San Francisco-based engineering and construction leader Bechtel Corp. recently tapped long-time employee Bill Dudley as president and CEO, making him the first non-family member in the company’s 116-year history to hold the title.

Bill Dudley
Bill Dudley

The change will not affect operations in the Bay Area, according to a company spokeswoman.

Dudley takes the reins from Riley Bechtel, the great-grandson of the company’s founder Warren Bechtel. Riley Bechtel served as chairman and CEO for nearly 25 years and is stepping down after being diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s disease, the spokeswoman said. He will retain his position as chairman of the board of directors.

Dudley, who is based in the company’s office in Reston, Va., joined the company in 1981 and served as the company’s president and chief operating officer for the past six years.

“Bill has been our top candidate for CEO succession for some time,” Riley Bechtel said in a statement, adding that Dudley is “highly regarded by our colleagues, customers, partners and suppliers.”

Other promotions in Bechtel’s executive suite include Jack Futcher being named an executive vice president and sponsor of two divisions: oil, gas and chemicals; and mining and metals. Riley Bechtel’s son, Brendan Bechtel, filled Futcher’s former role as president of the company’s oil, gas and chemicals unit.

Alasdair Cathcart moved into Brendan Bechtel’s former position as general manager of the company’s liquefied natural gas business. Cathcart most recently focused full-time on the company’s liquefied natural gas business in Australia.

Bechtel began in 1898 as a railroad-grading operation in the Oklahoma Territory, and five generations of the family have now steered the company through 23,000 projects worldwide, including San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART), the Hoover Dam and Britain’s Channel Tunnel.

Locally, Bechtel recently built the Russell City Energy Center in Hayward. The natural gas-fired power plant, owned by Houston-based Calpine Corp. and Stamford, Conn.-based GE Energy Financial Services, began operating in August and features equipment that allows it to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

The company also is part of the team that manages Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also among Bechtel’s recent projects are three large solar facilities in Southern California that were completed over the past year. These include the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, which began operating last month, and two photovoltaic projects—California Solar Valley Ranch in San Luis Obispo County and Catalina Solar near Bakersfield.

Internationally, Bechtel is building liquefied natural gas plants in Queensland and Western Australia. Also, a Bechtel-led consortium was awarded an approximately $10 billion contract last year to design and build two rail lines for Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Metro network.

In related news, a foundation created by former Bechtel Chairman and CEO Stephen Bechtel Jr., Riley’s father, this past fall gifted $25 million to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, which will help fund park enhancements in San Francisco’s Presidio. Stephen Bechtel Jr. is a member of Bechtel Corp.’s board of directors. The donation, given by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, is the largest cash gift ever contributed to a national park, according to the conservancy.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News