Ray O’Rourke to step down as company chief executive in 2022

Ray O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke founder, majority shareholder and Group CEO, will step down from the group chief executive’s position in September 2022, the company has announced.

O’Rourke will join his brother, Des O’Rourke, as a deputy chairman of the £2.4bn turnover group and continue his focus on innovation, people development and major clients. The move comes almost 45 years to the day when the pair began business with a single £2,500 concrete structures project.

Laing O’Rourke Board from September 2022

Sir John Parker GBE FREng – Chairman
Ray O’Rourke KBE – Deputy Chairman
Des O’Rourke – Deputy Chairman
Cathal O’Rourke – Non-Executive Director
Seamus French – CEO Designate
Rowan Baker – Chief Financial Officer
Jim Edmondson – Company Secretary
Greg Branch – Non-Executive Director
Charlotte Valeur – Non-Executive Director
Additional Non-Executive Director Position – under consideration

Seamus French, current CEO of Anglo American’s Bulk Commodities and Other Minerals division, will join the leadership team in January 2022, initially as managing director of the Europe Hub and CEO-designate, on a three-year contract. French has spent 18 months with the group as a non-executive director.

In a statement, the company says the appointment to first lead the Europe business will facilitate an orderly CEO handover from O’Rourke to French following the delivery of the FY22 (April 2021-March 2022) trading period, audit and accounts. French will then be Group CEO and Europe Hub MD.

Sir John Parker GBE FREng, group chairman of Laing O’Rourke, said: “The board and I have witnessed the extensive plc and international company operating experience that Seamus brings to the role. He is a world-class executive with rich engineering experience, a successful leadership and project track record, and deep knowledge of our operating markets.”

The company has also announced changes at the top in Australia, where managing director of the Australian Hub, Cathal O’Rourke, is to step down after eight years. He will also take up a position on the group board as a non-executive director.

Seamus French: Pushing boundaries

He is being replaced as the Rebecca Hanley, the current group director of strategy and transformation, and leader of Laing O’Rourke’s R&D operations.

Parker said: “Rebecca has worked with Laing O’Rourke since 2016, collaborating with Ray in London on the financial and operational restructuring that was required to transform the business, culminating in the group’s ‘Deliver 2025’ agenda.

“She brings a strong strategic and financial skillset to the role, as well as broad sector experience from past roles in resources, oil and gas, advisory and private equity.”

Commenting on his appointment as Europe managing director and CEO-Designate, French said: “During my time on the board, I have been hugely impressed by Laing O’Rourke’s team, its technical and engineering expertise, the current portfolio of projects and strong order book. It has a compelling vision to transform construction and to build safely and sustainably, while always caring for its people.

“Ray, Des and the leadership team have set some very exciting ambitions for the next few years and I’m confident we have the people and experience to achieve those goals, while continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible in this vital industry.”

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