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Renishaw's David McMurtry to step down as chairman after 50 years in top jobs at the engineer

Sir David McMurtry is stepping down as chairman  (Renishaw)
Sir David McMurtry is stepping down as chairman (Renishaw)

One of the longest runs at the top of a major British company is coming an end after FTSE 250 engineer Renishaw today announced its founder is stepping down as chairman.

Sir David McMurtry will bring the curtain down on 50 years in senior positions at the maker of precision equipment used in metrology and healthcare.

Now a billionaire, he founded the company in the 1970s and led it to a stock market listing in 1983. He resigned as chief executive in 2018.

Renishaw said today that he will continue to sit on its board “continuing to provide specific expertise on product innovation”.

McMurtry will be replaced as chair by Sir David Grant, senior non-executive director.

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And his son, Richard McMurtry, will be appointed to the board as a non-executive director.

Sir David set the firm up with fellow founder John Deer when he patented a more flexible measuring device, known as a touch-trigger probe,  designed to ease the process of measuring fuel pipes in jet engines. He invented it when working at Rolls-Royce on an engine designed for the Concorde supersonic jet.

The breakthrough set up one of British engineering’s biggest success stories

The Gloucestershire company now has a market value of almost £3 billion and is a world leader in 3D printing, which uses metal powder to produce components with a range of uses in industry. Renishaw now operates in 36 countries and employs over 5,000 people, 3,000 of them in the UK.

It reached £100 million in global sales in the year 2000 and a year later McMurtry was knighted. It last reported annual revenue of £671 million.

McMurtry and Deer own over 50% of the firm an put the stake up for sale in 2021, but they rejected all the offers that came in, saying the bids were not in the interests of all stakeholders in the firm. Deer is non-executive deputy chairman.

They resisted selling to private equity groups at a time when such buyouts had attracted controversy.

Renishaw was linked with bid interest from German engineering giant Siemens, which said in April it did not intend to make an offer.

With McMurtry in his 80s, there has been criticism from some shareholders over succession and in December almost a third of votes cast by investors went against re-electing him as chairman.

He and Deer also refused to sign an agreement designed to limit their ability to outvote other investors.

McMurtry departure from the chair will end one of the longest spells at the top of a FTSE 350 firm.

Known for being more interested in invention than administration, one of the main factors McMurtry was looking for in a potential buyer for his firm was a commitment to spending on research and development.

He has also expressed frustration with the red tape involved in running a public company.

Renishaw also said today that it was looking for an additional non-executive director to join its board.