Family strife, collapsing contractors and shrinking balance sheets … we review a dramatic business year
1 It's a family affair
Tony Pidgley Jr and the McCarthy brothers, Spencer and Clinton, attempted to seize what they saw as their birthrights. Both attempts were crushed.

Pidgley Jr made a £1bn bid for Berkeley Group, the company his dad, Tony, founded in the 1970s and still headed. Pidgley Sr might have admired his son's audacity, but that didn't stop him telling Junior that he wasn't ready to take up his pipe and slippers.

The McCarthy boys, however, worked in tandem with their old man John, making a £600m bid for the firm he co-founded and chaired, McCarthy & Stone. The bid was squashed by the board for undervaluing the housebuilder. John McCarthy's position became untenable and he retired earlier than planned.

2 Chasing Amey
Amey was staggering on the ropes at the start of the year. The support services group had lost 90% of its market value in the previous 12 months; chief executive Brian Staples had just resigned; it had written off £95m owing to poorly performing assets, and its London Underground contract was in the balance.

A sale seemed to be the only likely salvation, and rumours mounted about potential buyers. In June, Ferrovial took over the company for a paltry £81m. In early 2002, Amey had been valued at around £1bn.

3 I hope I die before I get old
The impact of the pensions crisis hit the industry hard. Many contractors had already closed final salary schemes to new entrants, who were swapped over to money purchase schemes where the risk of investment lies with the employee rather than employer.

But two firms went further, closing final salary schemes altogether and transferring all employees to the less beneficial pensions. The unions reacted angrily, but ROK and Alfred McAlpine argued that they no choice and other contractors would soon be forced to follow suit.

4 Going Ballastic
In October, contractor Ballast went into administration, after its Dutch parent, Ballast Nedam, cut off its financial support. Nearly 1000 jobs were lost. Former employees, subcontractors and banks were owed a total of £20m.

Work on schools and hospitals stopped, and there was considerable anger that an overseas firm could have such an impact on UK public services.

5 We won't always have Paris
Several big hitters left the industry or swapped to less hands-on roles this year. Apart from Brian Staples, Oliver Whitehead stepped down as Alfred McAlpine's chief executive to become chairman.

Perhaps the biggest exit was staged by Paris Moayedi. Last month he left the support services group Jarvis complaining of unfair media criticism of the company's rail safety record. Charismatic Moayedi has been replaced by another exuberant character – London mayoral candidate and frightful bounder Steven Norris.