Changing Of The Guard

Herman Russell steps down as company CEO

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If R.K. Sehgal, the recently named CEO and vice chairman of H.J. Russell Co., is able to duplicate his earlier successes, then the Atlanta based construction firm may be in for quite a ride.
Company founder Herman J. Russell tapped long-time friend and business associate Sehgal to steer the future course of his firm (ranked No. 4 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $172.8 million in sales), following his decision to step down after 45 years running the company. The duo also established a board with five high-profile directors, including Vernon Jordan, a special advisor to President Clinton, and Alfred McNeill Jr., former chairman of Turner Construction.

Sehgal, 55, built his reputation as CEO of the Atlanta-based engineering and construction firm Law Companies Group Inc. He opened the firm’s Washington office and forged its international expansion. Over a 10-year period, Sehgal helped transform the $50 million business into a $380 million enterprise. He served as president from 1985 until dwindling profits in 1994 forced his resignation.

Now with H.J. Russell Co., Sehgal’s major objectives include forming a national partnership with other companies to offer more construction management services, spearheading a five-fold increase of housing units that the company manages, from 6,00030,000 and further expanding construction opportunities to generate at least $250 million. Sehgal, a native of India, now has an undisclosed ownership percentage in the company. However, the Russell family will maintain majority control.

“You will see the company go into orbit now,” says Russell, 66, who says he will gladly move away from handling the day-today activities and begin working more on development strategies as chairman of the board. “It’s what I call semi-retiring. Instead of working 16 hours a day, I want to work nine, and I’m looking forward to it.”

In addition to taking the company to the next level, Sehgal has been charged with “mentoring” Russell’s children to eventually run the company. H. Jerome, Michael and Donata will continue in their positions as president and COO, vice president and vice president of concessions, international, respectively.