Woods Bagot appoints Sarah Kay as new CEO

International architecture firm Woods Bagot has appointed Sarah Kay as CEO. Kay, who will be the company’s first female CEO, succeeds Nik Karalis after his nine year tenure. Woods Bagot was founded in 1869 in Adelaide, Australia and now has 17 studios spanning across Australia and New Zealand, China, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

Kay has been a member of the Woods Bagot leadership group for 25 years and a director for 15 years. Though Kay led Wood Bagot’s Sydney studio until her appointment as CEO, she has global experience—including as director of the New York office. 

“I feel compelled as an architect, and now as a CEO, to have a positive impact through our work,” Kay said in a statement. “It is in fact our responsibility to have a leading voice in shaping our cities and our places with a long-term, sustainable and socially responsible outlook.”

Kay steps into her role at a pivotal moment for the company as it continues to expand globally. Under Karalis, Woods Bagot’s global net revenue increased by 33 percent and saw the completion of major projects such as The Londoner and Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. Woods Bagot has begun to explore new services in addition to architecture—including brand, urban strategies, and user strategies—allowing them to tackle complex infrastructure challenges.

“This is an incredible moment in our history,” Nik Karalis said in a statement. “Driven to reinforce our shared excellence by amplifying the power of design, Sarah’s global career, strategic mindset, business leadership, board experience, and focus on cultural inclusivity make her an incredible leader capable of driving the next chapter of Woods Bagot forward.”

As CEO, Kay plans to grow Wood Bagot’s market share in Europe, North America, and Asia. “We have a very big market share in one of the world’s smallest markets, being Australia,” Kay told The Australian Financial Review. “What we are investing in is having a larger market share in the world’s larger markets.” She will also focus on developing Wood Bagot’s specialist brands, which include high-end hospitality design studio, Customs Bureau, and sustainability consulting business, Global Impact Group (GIG).

Kay hopes to further continue the legacy of Woods Bagot in building a company that lasts: “We’ve been around for over 150 years, and our ambition is very much to be around for another 150 years.”

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