Opinion: What next for Laing O’Rourke?

Grant Prior 9 years ago
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Ray O’Rourke is back at the tiller of the country’s largest private contractor after chief executive Anna Stewart stood down for health reasons this week.

In reality O’Rourke has always been in charge of the company.

But finding a successor to the firm’s 68-year-old founder is proving a problem which could sway the whole future of the business.

Former Heathrow construction boss Tony Douglas was being groomed as a potential successor before suddenly leaving the firm in 2009.

Anna Stewart took over as chief executive in 2013 before stepping down this week.

Ray’s return to total control comes at a tricky time for the company.

In September it confirmed a £58m pre-tax loss at its European business in the year to March 2015.

Stewart also warned ominously that this year would be “equally challenging”.

Rumbles of discontent have been heard among O’Rourke’s supply chain recently after payment terms were changed leaving subcontractors out-of-pocket.

Senior management changes also followed a recent summit called to address performance issues at the firm.

While the ongoing skills shortage and rising wages must be putting huge pressure on cash flow due to the company’s commitment to direct labour.

The O’Rourke story has been one of a remarkably rapid rise to become one of the dominant forces in UK and global contracting.

But the current set of problems look like more than just a bump in the road.

Ray O’Rourke is a force of nature in the construction world.

But time waits for no man and as he enters the twilight of his career perhaps the hunt for a successor could turn into the hunt for a buyer.

Stranger things have happened in construction.

 

 

 

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