Andy White has left Laing O'Rourke five months after he took up the post of chief operating officer.
A statement issued by the firm on Monday confirmed White's resignation. It said: "Andy White has decided, now that the restructuring of Laing Construction is complete, to move on to pursue his particular interest in property development schemes."

The move came as a shock to the sector. One industry boss said: "I'm gobsmacked. He's only been there a few months." Other sources claimed White had not fitted into the culture at Laing O'Rourke. One said: "His style was different to the O'Rourke one."

White was head of special projects at Alfred McAlpine before being poached by Laing O'Rourke in March to take over the day-to-day running of the business. He was the first senior external appointment made by chairman Ray O'Rourke after he bought Laing for £1 last autumn.

It is understood that the firm is not looking for an immediate replacement for White.

Laing O'Rourke said it anticipated working with White on his future development schemes, although market sources doubted that this would be a significant tie-up.

White previously ran his own development business in the 1980s and early 1990s after a nine-year stint at Laing. He joined Alfred McAlpine in 1994.

I’m gobsmacked. He’s only been there a few months

Industry boss

Building revealed in May that White was still working part-time for Alfred McAlpine. The firms made an agreement to let White help out on a number of McAlpine projects. The arrangement was described as "highly unusual" by City sources, but both firms said the deal made sense.

O'Rourke predicted last month that the group's turnover would rise to £1.2bn for the year to 31 March 2003. The company posted a pre-tax profit of £44.1m on turnover of £597.1m for the year to 31 March 2002.

n Laing O'Rourke is still in the running for the £520m White City retail development.