Sir Frank Lampl: Holocaust survivor who later became chairman of the construction company Bovis

Sir Frank Lampl, a Holocaust survivor and Cold War prisoner, went on to become chairman of Bovis, turning it into one of the world's leading construction companies. Lampl epitomised man's desire to survive and succeed in the face of adversity and earned a worldwide reputation as one of the industry's leading figures.

Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1926, to landowners Otto and Olga, Frank William Lampl was a teenager when the Nazis invaded in 1938. He worked as a slave labourer at the underground BMW factory in Munich. During the Second World War he was a prisoner in the concentration camps at Terezin, Auschwitz and Dachau.

Following the Nazis' defeat, Lampl returned to Czechoslovakia, only to be imprisoned during one of the Communist regime's purges, and denounced as a "bourgeois undesirable". He worked for more than three years in the uranium mines of Jachymov. Following Stalin's death in 1953 Lampl was released under a general amnesty. Given a choice between mining and construction, he entered the latter. Over the next decade, he was a model employee; without actually joining the Communist Party, he rose to become managing director of the Pozemni Stavby Zavod Opava state-owned construction company, while studying at Brno Technical University. "I always tell ambitious young people to be careful how they treat their colleagues," he later recalled. "If your subordinate does not like you, you won't succeed. Most success depends on colleagues, on the team... People at the top can have large egos, but you must never say 'I': it's always 'we'."

In 1968, the tanks entered Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring; Lampl was, by then, trusted sufficiently to travel abroad. He and his wife Blanka left with one suitcase to visit their son, Thomas, who was studying at Oxford University. They did not return.

The couple settled in Clapham, south London and Lampl soon found work in construction before joining Bovis as a foreman bricklayer in 1971, aged 42. He quickly rose to project manager, and on the successful completion of his first project, in Luton, to the astonishment of many he secured the contract to refurbish Pergamon Press after a cold call to his compatriot, the Pergamon owner Robert Maxwell.

In 1974, the year he became a British citizen, Lampl became managing director of Bovis Construction Southern and executive director of Bovis Construction Limited and oversaw the company's successful forays into the booming Middle Eastern and British property markets of the 1970s and '80s. This led to the formation of Bovis International in 1977, with Lampl as chief executive and, a year later, managing director. In 1985, he became a board member of P&O, at that time the holding company of Bovis, and in 1989 chairman of Bovis Construction Group, a post he held until 2000.

In the 1980s Bovis became synonymous with the big-bang building boom in London, and the company's introduction of management skills imported from the US construction industry facilitated rapid completion of the most complicated projects, such as projects at Canary Wharf, including 1 Canada Square. Under Lampl's stewardship, Bovis won a number of high-profile contracts, including the development of EuroDisney outside Paris, the Atlanta Olympic Games and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the world's tallest building for six years. Following the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Lampl set up an operation in his former home town Brno, while Bovis contributed to several major Czech projects. In 1984 and 1986 Bovis won the Queen's Award for Export.

In 1999, Lampl oversaw the sale of Bovis to the Australian firm Lend Lease before retiring in 2000, retaining the position of life president and continuing to act in a consultancy role. By then, Bovis had a presence in 40 countries.

In 2009, Lampl suggested that a reason for his success was his experience of working as a labourer. "That kind of experience is a great advantage, particularly in construction, because it helps you understand what motivates people," he said. "If you come through the ranks... you have a much better feel for what's happening on-site."

Martin Childs

Frank Lampl, businessman: born Brno, Czechoslovakia 6 April 1926; Kt 1990; married 1948 Blanka (deceased 2001; one son), 2002 Wendy; died 24 March 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral