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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor


Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all