Jonathan Goring has become the latest industry A-lister to join Laing O’Rourke.
The recruitment of the former Capita managing director, as exclusively revealed by Construction News this week, is the most recent in a string of high-profile senior appointments that reads like a Who’s Who of construction.
Laing O’Rourke seems to have become a destination for chief executives looking for their next big job - Paul Sheffield, Paul Westbury and Gary Wells joined the contractor after running Kier, Buro Happold and UAE firm Al Naboodah respectively, while former Balfour Beatty MD Bob Clark was tempted out of retirement.
Recruiting a series of industry big-hitters gives the impression that the company is unique in the scale of its ambition and irresistible in the lure of its vision.
Laing O’Rourke is unusual in the contracting world in many ways, not just because it sets its store by offsite manufacturing or because it is committed to direct employment, but because everybody knows about those principles.
“These appointments are not a publicity stunt; they are the chance to create a self-fulfilling prophecy”
For a privately owned company notoriously ambivalent about publicity, it has been incredibly effective at communicating what sets it apart as a business.
Speaking to Construction News about his appointment, Mr Goring talked of his respect for the firm, of its ethics, of the “effort they’re putting into changing the industry for the better”.
Such words - and the fact that one respected industry figure after another keeps walking in through the door - are great PR for Laing O’Rourke. But these appointments are not a publicity stunt; they are the chance to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maybe you can hire…
At a time when concerns over capacity are at the forefront of every client’s mind, when contractors have to be persuaded to bid for complex jobs because there is so much work, Laing O’Rourke is making a clear statement of intent: it doesn’t have just one A-team, it has a host of big hitters.
With the amount of work coming up, it will need them; the contractor has been appointed to a number of high-profile jobs in the UK over the past year, including the Northern Line Extension, Thames Tideway Tunnel’s central contract and several big commercial jobs.
It’s a confident message too from chief executive Anna Stewart, who, two years after becoming chief executive, is increasingly visible and yet comfortably shares responsibilities with a high-profile team, while chairman Ray O’Rourke still exerts his influence from behind the scenes.
The next prize? HS2, with Laing O’Rourke among the eight JVs battling for the £42.6bn project.
Competition will be fierce – check back here on Thursday for an in-depth look at how the rival joint ventures compare.