Although the move to run a highly indebted rag-bag of businesses appeared strange for the heir-apparent to Hanson's US empire, Mr Clarke had become used to running his own show before selling out to Lord White's Hanson Industries in 1973.
He said yesterday that when talks on the proposed demerger of 34 of Hanson's non-core US businesses started five months ago, he asked the lords if he could go and run it himself.
With debts amounting to four times US Industries' net assets, the company will be a highly geared play on a range of business sectors. If he has negotiated the right package, share options could more than make up for the cut Mr Clarke has agreed to make from his Hanson salary.
Mr Clarke joined Hanson 22 years ago after selling his family business, J Howard Smith, a fish meal manufacturer and real estate company, to the conglomerate. In 1978 he became president of Hanson Industries and was promoted to deputy chairman and chief executive in 1992.
His replacement in the US, Bill Landuyt, is regarded as the company's brightest rising star. Having joined Hanson 13 years ago as assistant treasurer at the age of 26 he rose rapidly through the hierarchy.