The Business On: Mike Farley, chief executive, Persimmon

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The Independent Online

Gosh, who would want to be a housebuilder just now?

Mr Farley would, actually. Although Persimmon's sales fell during the first half of the year, the company is expecting a pick-up during the rest of 2011 and sees modest signs ofrecovery in the mortgage market.

It's amazing that it even made it through the recession

Yes, particularly given the chunky debts Persimmon took into the downturn after years of expansion during the boom time for the housing market. It certainly wasn't much fun: sales plummeted, Persimmon had to lay off thousands of staff, and it even stopped work on all new sites for a period.

That must have been horrible

Mr Farley told one interviewer last year that 2008 and 2009 were the worst years of his working life. The job cuts were the worst of it – Persimmon is a company with areputation for looking after its staff and the fact that it saved money at Christmas, when it always gives every employee a turkey, will have been no consolation at all.

But Mr Farley is still there?

Indeed, after almost 40 years in the construction business, what else would he do? He started out as a graduate trainee at Wimpey, as it then was, working on large projects such as office blocks, but then moved into housebuilding at Wilcon Homes and, latterly, Persimmon.

He must love his job?

He seems to – he lives in Oxfordshire, in a converted barn that is ratherdifferent from Persimmon's standard stock, but spends a good deal of his time on the road looking at building sites around the country. Persimmon has offices in York and London, so he clocks up the miles.

Does he ever take time off?

He has a holiday home in Brittany, where he likes to sail, and he watches a bit of rugby. Persimmon sponsors Northampton Saints where Persimmon's chairman, John White – a long-time friend and colleague – used to be a player. We're told Mr Farley watches Swindon Town, too.