Wednesday 21 November 2018

Low-key Leitrim brothers Ray and Des O'Rourke, who both now live on the Channel Island of Jersey, jointly own global engineering and global construction giant Laing O'Rourke, though qualified engineer Ray is the majority shareholder. The firm made a €290m loss in 2016 - its first in 15 years - but is on track to make a profit again this year that should be healthily in the tens of millions. Its order book between its European and Australian businesses is thought to be bursting at the seams with over €10bn of projects.

Ray's son Cathal and Des's son Stephen both work in the business, which has built some of Dubai's biggest skyscrapers, its airport, London's Olympic venues and Heathrow's Terminal 5, as well as a host of rail and tube projects in the English capital such as the new Crossrail and Bond Street stations.

The business was in the process of moving its headquarters from Cyprus to Jersey late last year, though a holding company in the British Virgin Islands over-arches the corporate structure, which it says is in place because the business earns its revenues from projects mainly located in the UK, Canada, Australia and Middle East.

Ray enjoys flying a Beechcraft 200B plane. Last November, the firm hired a new chairman from Northern Ireland to help steer it into the future and manage a process to hire a new boss to take the reins from him in the coming years. From humble beginnings in 1970s Britain, the business has become a multi-billion euro giant employing over 11,000 staff that has monthly revenues that are in the hundreds of millions.

A move that was transformational for the firm was buying the construction arm of John Laing Plc in 2001 after it took heavy losses on a number of contracts. The O'Rourkes initially offered £110m for the business, but after drilling down into the numbers, they bought it for just £1, with a key term added so that Laing had to help share any further losses. Since then, apart from the 2016 blip, the business has thrived, notching up profits of over €650m, some of which is believed to have been invested in shares and property.

Online Editors

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business