Ray o'rourke wants to re-establish Laing Contstruction as the UK's premier builder and raise turnover to former levels.
Laing had cut staff numbers and reduced turnover in the troublesome construction division from £1.2bn in 1998 to about £700m this year as losses mounted.

But Ray O'Rourke, who intends to take a close interest in his acquisition, said he wanted to see turnover back at its former high level. He expects turnover at Laing and his other company, concrete subcontractor O'Rourke, to rise to £2bn in three to five years.

"What we wanted was to move higher up the food chain. We've been a main contractor in Ireland for seven years and have a small contracting business in Essex [Dove], but this is a different level," O'Rourke said. "It gave us the opportunity to acquire the premium brand in construction."

Under the deal announced last week, O'Rourke will be responsible for 50 projects and Laing 13.

"We're taking on £700m worth of business – we're taking that risk, but we are comfortable with it," he said. O'Rourke and staff conducting due diligence for the deal visited 38 Laing sites, including projects in the Middle East.

O'Rourke acknowledged that staff morale had taken a pounding as losses mounted and the sale dragged on, but hoped his plans to reverse Laing's decline would ease worries.

He said: "A lot of people have been uneasy as to when it [the deal] was going to happen, but all around the country I have been impressed with their vitality. I want to take Laing back to where it was and it's given them huge encouragement."

He said the promise not to make any redundancies, which he made when he was announced as preferred bidder in April, still stood, and revealed that a recruitment drive was underway, with an advertising campaign about to start.

I have been impressed with the vitality of Laing staff

Ray O’Rourke

He also revealed that he did not intend to drop the Laing Construction brand but turn it into a market winner.

O'Rourke, now chief executive of Laing Construction and O'Rourke, will divide the construction firm into five regional divisions, each to be run by an executive board director who will answer to him. This is the same structure as at O'Rourke. These divisions, as well as international, civil engineering and utilities arms, will be run as separate entities. However, the two companies' plant hire firms will be merged.

Barry Dye and Mike Robins, now at O'Rourke but both ex-Laing workers, will head the London/South-east and Wales divisions respectively.

O'Rourke said he would divide his time between the companies. His senior man, David Anderson, will be spending more time on O'Rourke business.

O'Rourke said Laing's headquarters would remain at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and O'Rourke will stay put at Thurrock, Essex.

O'Rourke confirmed that the Laing deal includes a 10-year framework agreement stipulating that the division would carry out work on Laing's PFI projects. This aspect of the agreement, which will be reviewed every three years, is worth about £200m a year.

O'Rourke said he had no plans to float the enlarged group on the stock exchange.

Laing sale