Firm refuses to comment as chair Owen McLaughlin takes temporary control

The chief executive of support services giant Enterprise has left the company in recent days, Building understands.

Two separate sources close to the formerly-listed £1bn-turnover company said that chief executive Neil Kirkby has been on “gardening leave” since the end of February, and will depart the firm.

The founder of the modern group, chairman Owen McLaughlin, said to be worth £52m in the Sunday Times rich list, has taken over temporary executive control, the sources said.

Kirkby was finance director at the Preston-based company when McLaughlin led a £490m management buy-out backed by 3i in 2007. This took the company off the stock exchange.

After a period in which McLaughlin was chair and acting chief executive, Kirby was promoted to the top job in 2009. The reasons for Kirby’s departure are not known. Sources said McLaughlin and Kirby were known to have very different management styles.

Enterprise was established in 2000 from a merger of Lancashire Enterprises and ARM, and specialises in utilities infrastructure repairs and maintenance, alongside social housing contracting, highways maintenance and street cleaning.

The 13,000-strong company lists councils, housing associations and utilities as customers, most recently announcing a 23-year partnership agreement with Peterborough Council in January to deliver a range of front line services.

A spokesperson for the company refused to confirm who was currently running the business, saying that as a private company it could give information to the press when it chose to. A spokesperson said: “The company is not prepared to make any comment at this time.”