“Hands on” Henriksson takes charge

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The worst kept secret in engineering likely to ended on Thursday when Rick Haythornthwaite formally announced his intention to hand over the reins as chief executive of Invensys to Ulf Henriksson, his chief operating officer.

Speculation that Mr Henriksson would eventually succeed Mr Haythornthwaite was triggered by the £2m cash and shares “golden hello” that the 42-year-old Swede received when he joined in May last year from US rival Eaton Corp.

Observers believe that his appointment signals a change in direction for the group that has under Mr Haythornthwaite’s stewardship stabilised following the sale of many businesses and a controversial £2.7bn refinancing of the business.

One analyst said: “He is there to do a very different job. Rick was there to sort out, or to put it on the straight and narrow so it could be sold off. But he has made a half way house of it, and it is still hamstrung by debt. Ulf is an operations man, he is here to run it and will take out costs.”

Those who have met the cool, methodical Mr Henriksson agree that he is as different from Mr Haythornthwaite as is possible. “He’s very hands on, rather than sitting in the office chatting to investment bankers he has been out on the road shouting at people,” said one analyst.

But this emphasis on doing the rounds many believe has given him a better grasp of the business than previous chief executives of the diverse engineering group.

Before he was lured to a Invensys, Mr Henriksson over saw the hydraulics division at Eaton Corp, and held several senior positions at Honeywell including president of automated control systems.

Some measure of Mr Henriksson’s much praised operational abilities could on Thursday be judged by what he has managed to achieve with APV, the process equipment division, where he has reviewed operations and replaced the senior management.

His experience in control systems are also expected to prove valuable for the controls division that has suffered from product recalls and weakening performance.

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