Invest NI's Alastair Hamilton: Man who enticed global firms here and helped bring thousands of jobs to step down
One of the most important jobs in the public sector in Northern Ireland is to become vacant after Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton announced he's leaving after 10 years in the post.
Mr Hamilton, who is originally from Coleraine, has helped increase levels of inward investment into the region, including new types of companies such as major London law firms who now have support offices here.
One entrepreneur said that Mr Hamilton had brought a change of culture for the better to the economic development agency.
The former BT boss is due to stay at the organisation until a successor is appointed, and is not expected to leave the post until the autumn.
But he has not gone into detail about what his plans are for the future.
Mr Hamilton said yesterday: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Invest NI, and count it a great privilege to have been able to serve the organisation, and my home country, in such a significant role.
"There is never a good time to leave such a position, but it has been my intention to step down after 10 years in the post, which would be during 2019.
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"I intend to explore new opportunities and further expand my other areas of interest."
Businesspeople praised his achievements in the role. Ann McGregor, chief executive of the NI Chamber of Commerce, wished him well for the future.
"He did a fantastic job establishing Invest NI, with international offices all over the world, and in bringing foreign direct investment into Northern Ireland, especially in the fintech (financial technology) sector.
"We look forward to continuing to engage with him during his final months in the role."
Noel Lavery, permanent secretary of the Department for the Economy, the parent department of Invest NI, said: "Under Alastair Hamilton's leadership, Invest NI has played a central role in securing significant levels of foreign direct investment in Northern Ireland across a range of sectors during particularly challenging global economic conditions over the last decade.
"In that time, Invest NI has also helped promote and enhance the competitiveness of locally owned companies and their capability to export.
"I pay tribute to Alastair's commitment and the contribution he has made to Northern Ireland's economic prosperity as he signals his intention to move on from his role at Invest NI, and I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do next."
However, Mr Hamilton attracted media attention over his pay. In 2012, Invest NI was forced to defend his new pay deal after criticism over an arrangement which consolidated his bonus into a salary package of between £185,000 and £190,000 a year.
He had been hired on a deal which would see him paid £160,000 with scope for an annual bonus of up to £48,000.
A spokeswoman for Invest NI said yesterday: "The salary package for the incoming chief executive will be a matter for the Invest NI board.
"We would clarify, however, that the format of the CEO package was revised by the Invest NI board in 2012, with the removal of a bonus structure."
Mr Hamilton was appointed chief executive of Invest NI in April 2009 after holding positions within BT, including director of BT Solutions, managing director of BT major business in Ireland and UK director of BT Health.
In May 2007, he was seconded for one year to work as economic and business adviser to the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the late DUP leader Ian Paisley, who was also a family friend.
Outside of his professional life, Mr Hamilton has also carried out missionary work in Africa on behalf of his church.