UK construction's top directors must be paid more if they are not to be tempted away into private equity
British construction doesn't pay its elite anywhere near enough.
I know many of you aren't going to cry over the fact that today's Top 150 supplement shows that the 10 best-paid directors in the industry got 1.3% less in 2007 than the previous year.
But there is a brain drain, and executives in this industry are comparatively poorly paid.
Just look at some of the big-name figures who dabble as much in private equity as getting their hands dirty in the built environment:
I know many of you aren't going to cry… but there is a brain drain, and executives in this industry are comparatively poorly paid
Stuart Black quit as chief executive of social housing firm Mears last year and, once his gardening leave was completed, went on to advise Cognetas on its tilt at Morrison, the then utilities and facilities services group. Anyone who doubts the industry's intellectual capacity should look at Black, one of the masterminds of the Mouchel Parkman merger a few years back. His idea of a post-Mears break was to go and study at an Ivy League university in the US.
Ken Dytor, the urban regeneration specialist whose expertise has lit up committees at the British Property Federation and panels that steer government housing policy, has spent much of his time in recent years at Nikko Principal Investments, the outfit that once owned RoadChef.
Mike Balfour, the former chief executive of Balfour Beatty, advises at least one big-name private equity house on potential deals and is on that group's roster of directors it can draft in to turn around any firm that it buys.
More and more of construction's big names are going to be tempted into private equity.
More and more of construction's big names are going to be tempted into private equity – which doesn't even pay that well relative to other big City jobs
The irony is that private equity doesn't even pay that well relative to other big City jobs. One of the biggest names in private equity is Jon Moulton, the founder of Alchemy Partners. He took home less than £4m in the last financial year.
That is dwarfed by the pay packets of hedge fund managers. Take Greg Coffey, the Australian who so excited headline writers at the Evening Standard after GLG paid him $300m (£150m) last year - and still left after turning his nose up at $250m (£125m) to stay.
However, £4m would put you comfortably second in construction, and that's why the industry's best will look elsewhere, even in this market, if they don't start getting the rewards they deserve.
Mark Leftly works on the business desk of the Independent on Sunday. Construction and commercial property are two of the beats he covers on the newspaper. Mark's views should not be confused as being those of the Independent on Sunday.