Chief operating officer leaves after long period of uncertainty over his role

Laing O’Rourke has confirmed that chief operating officer Tony Douglas has left the company.

His exit follows a prolonged period of uncertainty during which talks over his future saw a tentative deal struck between Douglas and Ray O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke chief executive and chair, that would have seen him stay.

Rumours first surfaced Douglas was considering leaving last month after reportedly becoming upset when he was not given the chief executive’s job by O’Rourke.

He joined the company from his position as chief executive of Heathrow Airport in July 2007.

In a statement this afternoon, the company said: “The global economic crisis led Laing O’Rourke shareholders to rethink the original timetable on changing the group’s leadership. Having guided the group through a number of serious recessions in the past, it was felt appropriate for Ray to continue to focus on retaining cash and personally engaging with stakeholders in his ongoing leadership role. This decision was not taken lightly – and only came after a number of reviews to better understand the depth and duration of the current downturn.”

O’Rourke added: “The original appointment agreement was entered into by both parties in good faith. As my fellow shareholders and I are now unable to deliver on the original intent, I want to register my gratitude to Tony for the respect and professionalism he has shown to Laing O’Rourke at this time. He leaves the group with the board’s thanks for his many contributions and best wishes for the future.”

Tony Douglas said: “I am proud to have played a part in the ongoing success of Laing O’Rourke and, in particular, I am proud of the great work of my team during my time here. It has been a privilege working alongside Ray and I do wish him and his fellow shareholders every success for the future.”