Laing chief leaves to pursue a literary life

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of John Laing, the construction group, surprised investors yesterday by announcing he was quitting the company after seven years, to pursue other interests such as writing.

Andy Friend will step down from the board this autumn, to be replaced by Adrian Ewer, the group finance director.

Mr Ewer dismissed speculation that the CEO's departure was on anything other than amicable terms, saying he simply wanted to pursue other interests outside the construction industry, including more charity work and writing a play. Both Mr Friend's parents were professional actors in their youth.

The news came as the group revealed its revenues were likely to be hit again this year due to the collapse of a tunnel on its Chiltern Railways line last summer. The subsequent seven-week line closure saw its passengers forced to find alternative routes, some of whom did not return once the line reopened.

The collapse was caused by a Tesco building project, and the supermarket giant has accepted liability, but Mr Ewer said he expected the companies to need to enter a formal arbitration process to decide on the size of the compensation.

Shares in the company fell 3.56 per cent yesterday, closing at five-month lows of 277.5p.

The group said prospects for the rest of the company were strong. It said work had now got underway on its reconstruction of Barts and the London hospitals - the biggest hospital private finance initiative ever undertaken.