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Harland and Wolff chief Robert J Cooper to retire

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Robert J Cooper

Robert J Cooper

Robert J Cooper

Harland and Wolff Group's chief executive officer is retiring at the end of the month after a 44-year career with the company.

Robert J Cooper has been CEO of the Belfast-based business since February 2003.

He will be replaced by Jonathan Guest, the current director of business development and improvement for Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Limited, on May 1.

Mr Cooper began his career at Harland and Wolff as an accountant in 1974.

He rose through the ranks of the firm during a time of transition that saw the company privatised and bought by Norwegian stock exchange-listed business Fred Olsen Energy.

Mr Cooper is acknowledged as the CEO who returned Harland and Wolff to profit through a successful strategy of diversification, leading the firm into the renewable energy sector, design engineering and the growth of the ship repair and conversion business.

Mr Guest has worked for 23 years as a professional engineer and executive director in a range of industries including marine, manufacturing, automotive, engineering and construction. He was previously operations director of facades company McMullen Architecture, and managing director of the interior fit-out specialist MJM Group, which is based in Newry.

He holds an honours degree in manufacturing engineering and an MBA from Ulster University and is commercially focused with strong analysis skills and business growth experience.

A fellow of the Institute of Directors, Mr Guest was awarded their diploma in company direction, and in 2011 won the institute's coveted global director of the year award.

Mr Cooper said Mr Guest would make an excellent CEO.

"Jonathan is a major asset and the company is in very good hands," he added. "I know he will provide excellent leadership for the team at Harland and Wolff."

Belfast Telegraph