'Extraordinary leader' Mark Nodder steps down as Wrightbus boss after 21 years
Wrightbus chairman and chief executive Mark Nodder is stepping down from the business after a total of 21 years.
The Ballymena bus maker has not yet announced a replacement for Mr Nodder (63), who is retiring after leading the company since 2006. He joined in 1998.
The business has made high-profile deals during Mr Nodder's tenure, most famously a contract to supply up to 1,000 Routemaster double-decker buses to Transport for London.
Company co-founder Sir William Wright praised Mr Nodder for his "long and dedicated service". "The regard in which he is held in the bus industry speaks for itself and his wider services to the Northern Irish economy were rightly recognised in 2015 when he received an OBE," he said.
It's understood Sir William's son Jeff Wright will help lead the company in the absence of Mr Nodder and until a successor is officially appointed.
The company said a new chief executive would be announced "in the very near future".
Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said news of Mr Nodder's retirement was "very sad".
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"He is one of life's gentlemen. Mark has proven himself to be an extraordinary leader, not just in the Northern Ireland business community but globally in terms of his impact on Wrightbus," he said.
"He's taken it from a successful and important business into a really global leader in bus technology that passengers have been able to enjoy in cities right across the globe."
Mr Nodder was first appointed to Wrights Group in 1998 to the role of head of aftersales service to customers.
The appointment was made following a search by recruitment company Clarendon Executive.
Its managing partner Ciaran Sheehan said: "It is fair to say that Mark is widely recognised as having been a great champion for Wrights Group and also been a great ambassador for Northern Ireland businesses on an international stage.
"While he will be a hard act to follow, should Wrights Group seek to make an external appointment, I have no doubt this role and the opportunity to lead Wrights Group through the next phase of its development will have considerable appeal to candidates both within Northern Ireland and across the world who may be seeking to return."
Mr Nodder, who was born in Blackpool, was named Businessperson of the Year at the 2014 Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.
He trained as a lawyer before embarking on a career in industry which has also taken him to planemaker Bombardier and Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Defence.