Watkin Jones has been looking for a new chief executive since former owner Mark Watkin Jones announced his intention in January to stand down, having floated the business last year.
The chosen successor is 42-year-old Richard Simpson, group property director of Unite Group, the FTSE250 manager and developer of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).
Unite immediately put him on gardening leave but wished him well. Richard Simpson will join the board of Watkin Jones as CEO on 2nd January 2019 after serving out his Unite notice.
Chartered surveyor Richard Simpson joined Unite in 2005 after leaving the army and was latterly responsible for all aspects of its property portfolio. He was also chair of the British Property Federation's cross-sector student accommodation committee from 2013 to 2015.
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 PBSA 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."
Richard Simpson himself said: "Watkin Jones has a well-earned reputation as one of the UK's leading developers with an unrivalled focused expertise across PRS from build to rent to student accommodation development and management. I am excited by the prospect of working with the Board, senior management and staff to build on the group's strong foundations and to lead the business in the continued execution of its strategy."
Unite has promoted Nick Hayes to take Richard Simpson’s place as group property director, but unlike Mr Simpson he will not be on the board of directors.
Unite chairman Phil White said: “I would like to thank Richard for his contribution to Unite over a number of years and particularly since joining the board in 2012. Richard has been instrumental in driving Unite's property strategy to create a high-quality portfolio focused on the best universities in the UK.”