Leitrim's Ray O'Rourke (69) and his brother Des are the biggest shareholders in Laing O'Rourke, Europe's biggest private building company, with sales of €5.16bn last year. But it started small, from Ray's utility room. In the early days he had to claim that a loud noise on a phone call was a JCB operating nearby rather than the washing machine in his kitchen.
After merging his construction company with troubled builder Laing in 2000, O'Rourke's
empire embarked on a supercharged growth phase, winning major construction projects from Dubai's skyline to the London Olympics and Terminal 5. Now he's going to build the €2.5bn Hinckley Point nuclear reactor.
But last year was a turbulent one, as an innovative new business strategy to prefabricate major construction projects offsite proved difficult and saw its European operations lose €71m.
Having retired as chief executive three years ago, Ray returned to steady the ship last December. Renowned for his 17-hour days, Ray is also a pilot and lives in a €9m Georgian mansion in Essex. He was one of a number of investors swindled for almost €40m by conman Nicholas Levene in 2012.