Ray O'Rourke began his career in engineering and construction inwhen he worked as a 'pony boy', pulling carts in and out of a tunnel for the construction of London's Victoria tube line. These days it's using giant boring machines that are the diameter of the tunnel, rather than the labour and machinery of old. Having moved to the UK inafter growing up near Ballinamore on the Cavan-Leitrim border, the Charlestown, Co Mayo-born 70 year-old could be forgiven for feeling at home when he's in the British capital.
He and his firm have built a lot of it over the years, and much more besides. Over the years, Laing O'Rourke has worked on everything from airport terminals, new train and tube stations, a nuclear power station and London's Olympic stadium to port facilities, skyscrapers, hospitals, schools and hotels.
Today the firm also works in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and previously worked on projects in Dubai - including its airport and Palm Atlantis hotel - and in Hong Kong. The history of the firm itself has two chapters.
A utility room between the garage and the kitchen functioned as their office in the early days, with the family washing machine being excused as the sound of a noisy JCB when they were on the phone. Clients valued their innovative thinking and some allowed them to take on more responsibility.
Throughout the s and s, they expanded their range of services, taking on mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as Ray o rourke wife sexual dysfunction, planners, buyers and other key expertise.
Several acquisitions have since been bolted on, increasing "Ray o rourke wife sexual dysfunction" specialist capabilities.
But acquiring the construction arm of John Laing plc, a renowned firm that had roots in housebuilding in Scotland, later evolving into an infrastructure developer, would be transformational. Laing lost tens of millions on contracts to build Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and Britain's National Physical Laboratory, and a decision was made to offload the relevant division and employees. When we meet at the company's office on the outskirts of London, O'Rourke is softly spoken.
He hasn't lost the West of Ireland accent. His words are firm, however, each carefully considered sentence suggests a steely clarity of thought.
He's an avid reader about business. In a later question about the financial crash, he mentions having read Andrew Ross Sorkin's account of the US banks' struggles during that time, Too Big to Fail.
His contemporaries in the industry regard him as a tough negotiator. British architect Graham Stirk noted his "obsession and drive to push his organisation," adding that he's a "fantastic strategist". Howard Shiplee, a former London Olympic Delivery Authority executive, regarded him as "honourable, visionary and shrewd. O'Rourke's boardroom reveals his passion for rugby, and is adorned with framed Irish, English, Australian Ray o rourke wife sexual dysfunction All-Black rugby jerseys hanging side by side.
One Irish one is signed by the Grand Slam-winning team. This is ours," he says. In the company's 'data room', one whole wall has a slide with names of projects the firm has secured, others that are prospects and others that are almost secured, as well as their contract value to the business.
No photos are allowed nor will they reveal any specific numbers, due to their commercial sensitivity. Individual projects are in tens or hundreds of millions; the totals are in the billions, and the 'addressable market' being targeted is many billions. Currently, the business has just over 8, employees, 3, of whom are sub-contractors plus over 3, more in Australia and the Middle East.
That number peaked inwhen it had a 27,strong workforce. It's been worked through, he says, not wanting to go into detail, adding that this year's accounts will show a return to profit. Having turned last year's loss - its first in 15 years - around, at least several pressing matters lie ahead for the company. O'Rourke talked about stepping down as chief executive inbut he's keen to position the business so it's well-prepared for a changing future.
A new chairman, Belfast man and fellow engineer Sir John Parker came on board earlier this month to help navigate the path ahead.
He started his career in Harland and Wolff, working his way up to lead and chair the company. He will discuss the options that are open to us. There will be family considerations and ones about what happens when Des and I step down. He previously talked about the possibility of an IPO, perhaps if the firm had built a second, more advanced factory, that's also on its list of ambitions.
But I want to make it very clear: His son Cathal, who has been running the Australian business, seems qualified to take over the reins from him, or might an outsider be recruited? In any business, if you're able to from within it has huge added value because you get great continuity of strategy and a lower likelihood of failure.