Former Kier boss says opportunities to leave construction were “less attractive” than joining the contracting giant

Paul Sheffield - Kier

Source: Matt Leete

Former Kier chief executive Paul Sheffield has said a desire to get away from “looking at spreadsheets” was a key factor in his decision to join Laing O’Rourke as its European boss.

Last week, Laing O’Rourke announced it had hired Sheffield as managing director of its Europe Hub.

The move is a step down in seniority for Sheffield, who held the top post at Kier. He will now report to Laing O’Rourke Group chief executive Anna Stewart in his new job.

Speaking to Building this week, Sheffield said he was at a “point in life” where his priority was to do something he enjoyed and money and seniority were less a concern.

He said he was looking forward to “rolling up his sleeves” more often than he had been able to when dealing with the demands of investors and analysts as chief executive of the publically traded Kier, which he said had taken up “around 50%” of his time.

He added: “I have made no secret about the fact that what I enjoyed most about the last 20 years is building things not looking at spreadsheets.”

Upon announcing that he was leaving Kier in February, Sheffield suggested he wanted to find a new role outside of construction, saying it would be “exciting to try your skills at something completely different”.

But this week he said he had had “interesting conversations” with firms outside construction but that it would have been “difficult to do something in an industry that I’m not passionate about”.

“I have had a very careful look at things outside the industry but none are as attractive as the opportunity I have got to stay in it,” he said.

“I have done a lot of due diligence on the business [Laing O’Rourke] and the one thing that has convinced me it’s the right move is the passionate ambition that they have to do things differently.

“I was quite clear that I didn’t want to do the same thing for another company but the ambition and investment that they have done does puts the potential [for the business] on a different platform.”

He said that the industry needed to change if it was to realise the goals of the government’s construction strategy for 2025 and that Laing O’Rourke’s investment in offsite manufacturing plants was an attractive way of doing that.