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CN Briefing: Adrian Ringrose; Interserve CEO; construction chief executives

When I met Adrian Ringrose in 2014 for lunch and a chat, he had been in charge of Interserve for 11 years already.

Having joined the company in 2000, he took over as CEO three years later at the age of just 35.

Since then, the group has almost trebled in size, from being a £1.2bn-turnover firm to hitting £3.2bn in 2015.

Last year, the group made a solid 2.3 per cent pre-tax margin, having increased profit by £30m on its 2014 performance.

When we spoke in 2014 the group was riding high, but Mr Ringrose had been at the helm for more than a decade and was already beginning to countenance life after Interserve.

This is not to say he had made up his mind to leave. But he appeared to be grateful he’d got the chance to lead at such a young age for a CEO, and was passionate enough about the industry to be able to consider relishing a new challenge.

He said at the time: “It seems like an awfully premature time to say I should stop, but who can predict the future – none of us knows what’s around the corner.”

And that proved to be prescient, but perhaps not for the reasons he might have thought.

Having successfully made its way out of the global economic downturn, Interserve has more recently hit the headlines for problem EfW jobs, the cost of public sector wages and a surprise bid for One Nine Elms which ended as dramatically as it began.

Mr Ringrose is no stranger to challenges though; it hasn’t always been smooth sailing at Interserve.

One example of that was the £11.6m fine for its role in ‘price rigging’, when the OFT imposed fines of £130m on 103 companies in 2009. These fines were later cut significantly after appeals, but Interserve had chosen not to appeal.

What is clear is that being in the hotseat in this industry, particularly leading a plc, is no easy task and Mr Ringrose is comfortably the longest-standing CEO among his peers (Ray O’Rourke and John Morgan have both stepped back into the role in more recent times).

Strong relationships with public sector clients in areas such as defence and education, its services expansion and a strong track record on delivery as well as shareholder returns will be among Mr Ringrose’s legacies.

Well-respected, passionate about the industry and with a track record of success, Mr Ringrose will be a tough act to follow (its share price fell almost 3 per cent after the announcement), regardless of the travails of the last 18 months.

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