This week we’re trying to get to the bottom of the Laing O’Rourke leadership imbroglio, the ownership of the late Denys Lasdun’s papers and the meaning of Richard Rogers’ smile
Was that a rueful smile I saw on Lord Rogers’ face as he was handed the Stirling prize winner’s cheque of £20,000 by Marco Goldschmied, whose foundation is funding the award? When Goldschmied split from Rogers in 2004 in less than amicable circumstances, his foundation retained a “claim on the profits for a few years going ahead”. So this was presumably money that Rogers thought he wouldn’t see again. What goes around comes around, as they say.
The 31mph Tory
Ambitious housing minister-in-waiting, Grant Shapps, has the look of the archetypal young man in a hurry. Discussing his idea of an “open source” planning system last week, he told members of the Home Builders Federation that, although its “code” would be created by local authorities, communities would be able to provide input – much in the way that external developers have access to the code used for Apple’s iPhone. Shapps was enthusiastic about the software that has been created for the trendy handheld device: “You can get a programme that detects speed cameras,” he told housebuilders breathlessly. “Even the mobile ones!” Not something the right honourable Shapps would have any use for, one assumes.
As part of her speech at the Stirling bash, RIBA president Ruth Reed welcomed Lady Lasdun, wife of the late Sir Denys, and thanked her for the gift of her husband’s archive. This was news to Lady Lasdun, who has not yet given the archive to the body. What she has done is to enter into a legal agreement with the RIBA to raise equal amounts of money to archive the great man’s papers. However, she has been far more successful than the RIBA, which has raised narey a bean. Lady Lasdun was not pleased to have the donation described as a fait accompli, as interested representatives from the Royal Academy and the V&A were later to hear …
Business doesn’t stop, even when your office goes up in flames. With smoke billowing out of the roof of their London HQ last week, Davis Langdon staff had no choice but to get out fast. But spare a thought for the man due to catch a flight for a meeting in Abu Dhabi, who had left his passport on his desk. After much discussion with the fire brigade, he finally managed to retrieve it and tore off to Heathrow. He can’t have been happy when he was told his flight had been cancelled.
Cloak and Douglas
Laing O’Rourke’s “no comment” media strategy regarding the wrangle over the firm’s succession plan is looking increasingly bizarre in the face of the relentless gossip over the issue. At present, the main issue is whether chief operating officer Tony Douglas is to leave the company or not: there seems to be a deal to keep him in the offing all right, but who knows if it will stick?
One thing that is clear is that the staff don’t know any more than the rest of us. One senior Laing O’Rourke director, who left the firm over a year ago, told me he had been besieged by calls from his former colleagues trying to find out what was going on. There’s nothing like transparency …
Booing a cheerleader
There was, however, a stinging rebuke to the suggestion that Anna Stewart, commercial director of Laing O’Rourke, could take over when Ray O’Rourke hangs up his hard hat. Following the speculation that Douglas was pondering his future, Stewart’s name emerged as a possible alternative. One source familiar with all concerned was having none of it, describing Stewart as “Ray’s biggest cheerleader, but not his heiress”. He added: “If Ray says he wants to grow turnover to £7bn, she’ll be the first to bang the table and say, “No, £10bn!” In the week Kier ruled Deena Mattar out of its succession race, who I wonder will be the first female boss of a major contractor?
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