Leitrim man Ray O’Rourke (68) started as a "pony boy" carrying muck out from under London as the Victoria Line was being constructed. He now runs Laing O’Rourke, the UK’s biggest building contractor.
The firm has built projects ranging from the ‘Cheesegrater’ tower in London to Doha Airport and Hong Kong’s light rail system. Rugby mad O’Rourke and his brother Des (65) are the biggest shareholders in the company. Sales rose 0.5pc to €5.61bn but pre-tax profits tumbled 23pc to €77m as the construction environment remains tough in Laing O’Rourke’s key markets.
The latest company accounts indicate the group was sitting on cash balances of €881m and a €9.4bn order book. Laing O’Rourke paid €12.1m in rents to companies controlled by trusts associated with the O’Rourke family. Ray lives in a €9m Georgian mansion in Essex.