Andy Ruhan, son-in-law of Birmingham tycoon Roy Richardson, provides up to £8m for McAlpine stake.
One of Britain’s fastest-growing developers has emerged as the secret backer of entrepreneur Andrew Goodall’s audacious bid to buy Alfred McAlpine.

Andy Ruhan, son-in-law and development partner of Birmingham tycoon Roy Richardson, provided up to £8m to Goodall, which he used on 23 August to purchase a 3% stake in McAlpine.

Ruhan declined to comment, but a senior City source said he provided the cash in return for a major stake in Goodall’s company, Brunswick Developments. The source said that Ruhan planned to play a full role in the running of McAlpine if Goodall’s bid succeeds.

What is not clear is the role, if any, that Richardson and his twin brother Don, who together developed Dudley’s vast Merry Hill centre in the 1980s, would play if Brunswick buys McAlpine.

The source said that, although the Richardsons are fabulously wealthy, they as yet have no commercial interest in the bid other than through Tania Ruhan, Roy’s daughter and Ruhan’s wife. She is a director of Ruhan’s principal commercial vehicle, Stockdale Properties, which is involved in joint developments with the Richardsons.

This week, McAlpine investors were considering their options. Some still harbour doubts about Goodall’s financial resources, but the City source said that news of Ruhan’s backing, and the link with the Richardsons, should stop sniping about the seriousness of the bid.

McAlpine executives are also weighing up what to do. Chief executive Oliver Whitehead would only say last week that the firm will respond in due course, rather than rejecting the bid outright.

Industry analysts have been pressing the McAlpine board to reject Goodall’s 260p-a-share offer. However, it appears that their opinion is not shared by several major shareholders, who have urged Whitehead to meet Goodall for talks. In the forefront of these is Phillips & Drew Fund Management, which holds about 12% of McAlpine’s shares.

Phillips & Drew gave conspicuous support to an earlier Goodall offer. However, City sources said shareholders speaking for a further 8% of the company are also keen for negotiations to begin.

The firm’s shares were worth 267p as Building went to press, compared with a 52-week low price of 110p. The difference of opinion between analysts and investors is mainly over the question of whether Goodall’s offer is a fair reflection of the value of the company.

Analysts point out that McAlpine is becoming increasingly profitable: its pre-tax profit for the six months to 30 June 1999 was up 52% £17.3m – its highest-ever return. sThe firm’s private housing arm – Goodall’s principal target – increased its operating profit £4m to £15.7m. Civil engineering was also a star performer, lifting its operating profit to £3.2m from £1.8m in the first six months of 1998. This division’s 4.6% margins compare favourably with the best in the sector.

The Special Projects arm lifted operating profit to £1.8m from £200 000 on turnover up from £25.6m to £71.7m.

But despite McAlpine’s impressive performance, other potential bidders were cool about mounting a counter-offer to Goodall’s Beazer chief executive John Low said: “We always have an open mind as far as opportunities in the market are concerned.”

Taylor Woodrow chief executive Keith Egerton said the firm had no plans to bid, although he said that it had considered the possibility of an offer for McAlpine when Goodall made his first bid.

US housebuilder Centex, which bought Amec housing arm Fairclough earlier this year and which has been linked with McAlpine, is thought to have its hands full absorbing Fairclough.