Profile: Balfour Beatty's chairman Steve Marshall

All eyes will be on Steve Marshall as he seeks to get Balfour Beatty back on track.
Balfour Beatty's chairman Steve Marshall has had a lot of practice in fighting tough battles and working to turnaround businesses. But, following his trenchant rejection of Carillion’s bid proposals, he knows he has a lot to prove to many of his group's shareholders who would have quite liked to have at least had the chance to engage with the bidder he so resolutely stood out against.

With small business-owning parents of an immigrant background, Marshall went to Isleworth grammar school in west London before deciding not to go to university, instead, working during the day and spending his nights studying for accountancy exams.

He cut his teeth at firms, including BOC and Black and Decker, before boosting his skills at Diageo predecessor Grand Metropolitan under the leadership of Allan Sheppard.

He rose to take a leading role at FTSE 100-listed Thorn when he was still in his 30s, helping reorganise the company with a 70 per cent value uplift during his time there.

However it was at Railtrack that he faced perhaps one of his toughest challenges, taking over as chief executive after the resignation of Gerald Corbett after the Hatfield rail crash.

Marshall faced a tough war against the Labour government at the time over Rail­track as it was pushed towards administration, doing battle with transport secretary Stephen Byers, but managing to get £1.5bn returned to shareholders.

Marshall has an interest in wildlife conservation and natural history, and observers will be keen to see if he has a clear path not just to preserve, but enhance Balfour Beatty.

For now Marshall has a full in-tray and time will tell whether Balfour Beatty is better off going it alone. Those who have been close to him during the past few weeks maintain that he knows full well what he is doing and will reinforce that idea over the coming weeks with a string of welcome news, not least the completion of the disposal of Parsons Brinckerhoff. But shareholders will want signs of real strategy not just superficial announcements. The pressure is on.

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