John McDonough is the boss of bosses this year, thanks to a splendid record as head of Carillion, but also his performance as a kind of construction renaissance man …

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John McDonough

John McDonough, 58, has been chief executive of Carillion since January 2001. During that time, he has accelerated the process of transforming the company from a hard-bid contractor into a high-IQ business that generates half its revenue, and two-thirds of its profit, from service-related businesses. He also oversaw the purchase and integration of Mowlem and Alfred McAlpine, two sizeable transactions that were not without risk, and that (after a bit of a bumpy ride) have helped treble turnover.

He has led from the front and overseen the transformation of the business. In the process he has brought a lot of discipline to the contracting arm – largely by refusing to win work at any cost. The result is that Carillion’s days as an undercapitalised scrabbler after work are over; it now has a turnover of £5.43bn, an order book of £17.7bn, a net cash inflow of more than £250m – and a net debt of £0. Its last results were enough to push its share price up 12% from 269p to 304p in 2009, a strong performance compared with its peer group.

Described by some as a visionary, McDonough has many strings to his bow. He is a family man – married with two children – and unsurprisingly has a first-class degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London. But he does not fit the standard psychological profile of the engineer: he is people-orientated, he is engaged in the green debate and was a pioneer of the use of frameworks. It was this background that persuaded the industry to choose him as its champion: he has spearheaded the drive to improve the relationship between industry and government as chairman of the CBI Construction Council. And persuaded the judges to make him the boss of bosses.

Building awards judges

Bernard Ainsworth project managing director, The Shard

David Birkbeck director, Design for Homes

Tim Byles chief executive, Partnerships for Schools

Kevin Cammack investment analyst, Cenkos Securities

John Dodds former chief executive, Kier Group

Stan Hornagold founder, Marstan Group

John Howell former group construction director, Candy & Candy

Mike Jeffries chairman, VT Group

Hanif Kara founding partner, Adams Kara Taylor

Tom Lane assistant editor, Building

Paul Lewis operations director, Stanhope

Fiona McDermott head of building and construction, KPMG

Steve McGuckin managing director of programme and project management, Turner & Townsend

Sir Peter Mason chairman, Thames Water

Ann Minogue partner, Ashurst

John Morgan chairman, Morgan Sindall

Sadie Morgan director, dRMM

Steve Morgan capital programmes director, BAA

Robin Nicholson director, Edward Cullinan Architects

Nick Pollard chief executive, Bovis Lend Lease

Simon Rawlinson partner, Davis Langdon

Sir John Sorrell the Sorrell Foundation

David Sparrow global head of client solutions, EC Harris

Martin Spring architectural writer