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Ray's lieutenant

While some news in construction is widely expected, this morning’s sad announcement that Anna Stewart is to stand down as chief executive at Laing O’Rourke due to ill health came out of the blue.

Anna Stewart chief financial and commercial officer Laing O'Rourke

Anna Stewart chief financial and commercial officer Laing O’Rourke

However long Ms Stewart is away from the top job, it will be the task of the firm’s founder and group executive chairman Ray O’Rourke to make sure the impact across the company is limited as much as possible.

Given the level of respect she commands, both within her organisation and across the wider industry, Mr O’Rourke will no doubt miss the presence of a key ally – he has relied on her judgement for the last decade-and-a-half and handpicked her as his successor when he stepped down as CEO in 2012.

For the moment, Mr O’Rourke will take on CEO responsibilities. Signs of a more public-facing role have already been in evidence, with Mr O’Rourke putting in an appearance at a recent CN100 Breakfast Club briefing.

Further down the food chain, Laing O’Rourke has impressed the market with a number of well-thought-of senior hires, most recently recruiting former Mace and Bovis heavyweight Jonathan Goring to lead its major projects team.

So Mr O’Rourke is fortunate in having the support of “a lot of senior leaders who are very good at self-delivery”, as one observer put it today.

Nevertheless, as a figurehead, a “trusted lieutenant” to Mr O’Rourke and a role model for women in construction, Ms Stewart’s absence will be felt keenly.

“She is without doubt the leading female figure in the sector by a country mile, both in track record and capability,” said one contact I spoke to today. “Her commercial nous is second to none.”

Everyone at Construction News wishes Ms Stewart a full and speedy recovery.

In the news

Elsewhere today: Balfour Beatty has agreed a new £400m credit facility as the firm says it will be “cash positive by the end of the year; Robertson Group has targeted construction margins of 4% after turning in record financial results; and Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for the Pinnacle tower replacement.

The longer read

Gleeds’ head of R&D Sarah Davidson takes a look into her crystal ball at what bidding activity will look like in the coming year.



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