Richard Simpson Unite

Watkin Jones hires new chief executive from Unite

The Bangor-based developer and contractor has raided student accommodation developer and manager Unite Students for its new chief executive, hiring the company’s property director Richard Simpson to replace Mark Watkin Jones.

Current chief executive Mark Watkin Jones announced he would step down in January this year, and the company said it had chosen to hire Simpson “following a comprehensive formal search process”.

Simpson has been with Unite since 2005 and has held a number of senior roles, having been a member of the board since 2012. He is also a non-executive director of London-based social housing company CityWest Homes.

He will take up his new role on 2 January 2019, while outgoing chief executive Watkin Jones said he would provide ongoing support to the business “as long as is needed” and will work alongside Simpson “during a transitional period to ensure an orderly handover”.

Earlier this year, the group reported a 13% increase in revenue to £302m and an 18% rise in gross profit to £63.5m in its latest annual results, covering the year to 30 September 2017.

Projects in the pipeline in the North West include the redevelopment of Chester’s former bus depot, while across the UK the company is planning to deliver 1,500 units by 2022.

Outgoing chief executive Mark Watkin Jones said: “I am extremely pleased that I will be handing over my CEO responsibilities to such an experienced and recognised operator in the sector. Richard’s knowledge and first-hand experience of the purpose-built student accommodation sector is significant for the group.

“I will do what needs to be done to ensure a smooth handover, and I will work closely with Richard during the transition period. I strongly believe I am handing over stewardship of Watkin Jones to the right candidate as the group enters the next phase of its growth.”

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