First ‘Davis Langdon, an Aecom company’, and now the loss of Bovis. The news this week that Lend Lease is poised to drop the 125-year old brand of its contracting business will no doubt cause much consternation amongst those in the industry who feel that the UK sector’s heritage is being swept aside by multinational corporates.
You can already hear the nostalgic murmurings about Cadbury’s, and the January resolutions have barely begun.
But leaving aside the emotional tug of a British construction institution, ending the Bovis name now makes a lot of sense for Lend Lease. When it first bought the company back in 1999, Bovis was still seen as the blue chip contractor of UK construction.
The fact that its brand has survived for 15 years under Aussie rule is testimony to that strength. It’s a pretty exceptional length of time - I don’t think anyone would suggest that we’ll still be getting handed Davis Langdon business cards in 2025.
But in fact, it’s possible that – in terms of its own interests at least - Lend Lease has clung to the Bovis brand for too long. If you talk to many within the company hierarchy, including Dan Labbad, it’s clear they believe that the impression of conflict between the Australian parent and its sometime-wayward British construction subsidiary has been exaggerated.
But yet it’s an impression that has persisted pretty much since the takeover, and whilst there clearly have been tensions, they have probably resonated more than they would otherwise have been because many people who have an interest in the business – the media, rivals, even some employees – persist in viewing Bovis and Lend Lease as two largely separate organisations.
Where there are tensions, the scrutiny is all the greater, because basically, everyone wants to know what that developer is doing with good old Bovis, when the hard reality is that it is Lend Lease subsidiary, and has been for some time.
So, although an era without Bovis could create a lot of fresh issues for Lend Lease in terms of its perception, it should, as well, provide relief from what has become a disproportionately distracting headache – and a big barrier to proper integration.