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Sir Robert McAlpine
Type Private company
Industry Engineering / Construction
Founded 1869
Headquarters Hemel Hempstead, England
Revenue £743 million (2011)[1]
Operating income £19 million (2011)[1]
Website www.sir-robert-mcalpine.com

Sir Robert McAlpine is a private British company headquartered in Hertfordshire. It carries out engineering and construction for the oil and gas, petrochemical, power generation, nuclear, pharmaceutical, defence, chemical, water and mining industries.

History[edit]

Sir Robert McAlpine, 1st Baronet who founded the eponymous company was born in 1847 in the Scottish village of Newarthill near Motherwell. From the age of seven he worked in the nearby coal mines, leaving at 16 to become an apprentice bricklayer. Later, working for an engineer, he progressed to being foreman before starting to work on his own account at the age of 22 (1869). He had no capital other than that he could earn himself and his first contract involving the employment of other men had to be financed by borrowing £11 from the butcher. From there, McAlpine enjoyed rapid success; the early contracts centred on his own trade of bricklaying and by 1874 he was the owner of two brickyards and an employer of 1,000 men. [2] (It was on one of the housing estates he built that he first experimented with using concrete blocks as well as bricks (from which he earned the nickname 'concrete Bob').[3]

With the capital he had acquired, McAlpine determined to build a garden city at Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. Relying now on the income from his estate, McAlpine’s attention moved away from his contracting business towards self-education. However, the financial panic following the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878 virtually wiped out McAlpine financially: his mortgages were called in but his debtors did not pay him.[2]

The liabilities from the Hamilton estate were threatening the construction business and to protect it, Robert took his clerk into partnership, trading under the name McAlpine & Co; the clerk was bought out not long after. McAlpine’s first large contract was a building for Singer Manufacturing in 1883 and the profit from that enabled him to pay off his remaining debts. Almost immediately he faced further financial difficulties. Winning a contract for the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway without the necessary technical knowledge, the subsequent rebuilding work and litigation meant another fresh start.[2]

In 1887, Robert took his two eldest sons, Robert junior and William, out of school to help him, with Malcolm and Alfred following soon after, and they did much to rationalise the firm’s administration and finances. Undaunted by his earlier experience, McAlpine took on further railway contracts, this time successfully, including the Mallaig Extension Railway and the Glasgow Subway. There was an increasingly wide range of building and civil engineering contracts but the firm was almost brought to its knees again with the construction of the Methil Docks between 1909 and 1913. It was argued that this led to a much more cautious approach to risk on the part of the sons – if not the father. [4]

The inter-war period saw the firm focusing solely on construction. Gray wrote that Sir Robert McAlpine “seemed to have been involved in every major building and civil engineering project that ever hit the headlines of the day.” They included docks, harbours, power stations, factories; the Wembley Stadium and the Dorchester Hotel were notable examples. [4] The Dorchester was of particular interest. When the client was unable to pay for the construction works, the company took possession of the completed building and operated it on its own account.[5]

In November 1934, Sir Robert died aged 87. Two weeks later the eldest son, the new Sir Robert, also died. William was appointed Chairman while Alfred remained in charge of the operation in the north-west subsidiary, where he had been since 1918. These two deaths must have had some impact on what followed. The two London partners argued that the recession was impacting more on the north than the south and proposed closing Alfred’s company. Alfred, however, did not wish to return to London and, on an informal basis at first, the two businesses were run separately. The separation was formalised in 1940 and the northern business was renamed Sir Alfred McAlpine.[4] The two McAlpine firms had non-compete arrangements and sites had a common “McAlpine” board irrespective of which firm it was. When both companies first went public, they did so under the names Newarthill for Robert and Marchwiel for Alfred. These arrangements continued until 1983. [6]

In 2003, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. sued Alfred McAlpine plc over the use of the family name and won.[7] The dispute centred around Alfred McAlpine's intention to trade under the name "McAlpine". There was previously a long standing agreement within the McAlpine family not to make such a change but, following the death of Alfred McAlpine, the board of Alfred McAlpine sought to make the change in any event. The effect of the judgment was to prevent Alfred McAlpine trading under the name "McAlpine". In 2008, Alfred McAlpine plc was acquired by Carillion and dismantled, thus making the "name war" irrelevant.[8]

The Irish Connection[edit]

From the 1930s onwards, the company employed large numbers of Irish who had come to England looking for work. The harsh working conditions with which McAlpine's management treated their labourers has gone down in Irish emigrant folklore. The song "McAlpine's Fusiliers" (written by Dominic Behan and made famous by "The Dubliners") described the realities of life on the building site for many Irish expatriates.[9]

Structure[edit]

The company is organised on a regional basis.[10]

It has offices in Hemel Hempstead, London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The plant section is based in Kettering.

Major projects[edit]

The Emirates Stadium, built by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

Projects undertaken by the company have included the Glenfinnan Viaduct completed in 1901,[11] the Maine Road Stadium completed in 1923,[12] the original Wembley Stadium completed in 1924,[11] the Dorchester Hotel in London completed in 1931,[11] the St. Enoch Centre completed in 1989,[11] the Millennium Dome in Greenwich completed in 1999[11] which the company also redeveloped to The O2,[11] the Millennium Bridge in London completed in 2000,[13] the ExCeL Exhibition Centre completed in 2000,[14] the Eden Project in St Austell completed in 2001,[15] the Bull Ring in Birmingham completed in 2003,[16] the Emirates Stadium completed in 2006,[17] the White River Place development in St Austell town centre completed in 2009[18] and the Olympic Stadium for London 2012 completed in 2011.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sir Robert McAlpine profits fall 38%". Construction Enquiror. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  2. ^ a b c J Saxon Childers, Robert McAlpine A Biography (1925)
  3. ^ “McAlpine The First Hundred Years” (1969)
  4. ^ a b c Tony Gray, The Road to Success Alfred McAlpine 1935-1985 (1987)
  5. ^ "Sir William McAlpine talks to Andy Milne". Railway People. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  6. ^ Wellings, Fred: Dictionary of British Housebuilders (2006) Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5,
  7. ^ Mark Milner (2004-04-01). "Court verdict finds for Sir Robert". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  8. ^ "Carillion agrees to buy McAlpine". BBC News. 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  9. ^ "McAlpines Fusiliers". Free Lyrics. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  10. ^ Will Mann (2007-12-14). "Sir Robert McAlpine boss Benny Kelly to step down". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Sir Robert McAlpine Project Archive". Sir Robert McAlpine. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  12. ^ "Maine Road". Structurae. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  13. ^ "Millennium Bridge". Structurae. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  14. ^ "News from Worldwide". Worldwide Exhibition Specialists Ltd. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  15. ^ "The Eden Project". Living Places. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "Building the BullRing" (pdf). Birmingham City Council. Archived from the original on 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  17. ^ "First ball kicked at Emirates Stadium". Arsenal F.C. 2005-08-25. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  18. ^ Rebecca Froley (2006-10-02). "Sir Robert McAlpine wins St Austell redevelopment". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  19. ^ Tom Bill (2007-07-24). "ODA signs Olympic Stadium deal with Sir Robert McAlpine". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 



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Premier Construction Magazine
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 07:37:30 -0700

Sir Robert McAlpine was involved in the construction of the Olympic Stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics in 2012 as well as athletics and field events. The site was constructed on a 40 acre site to the southern side ...
 
Construction Enquirer
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:23:08 -0700

Sir Robert McAlpine is also vying to build the project and was connected with the landmark scheme offering fee-based pre-construction services ahead of plans being submitted. A source told the Enquirerthat Almacantar was now leaning towards awarding ...

The Courier

The Courier
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 05:00:00 -0700

Contractors Sir Robert McAlpine took a break for Easter but now the works are back again. The traffic on the bridge was heavy from around 7.40am and only cleared at around 10am on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Tay Bridge said: “There is just a few ...
 
Herald Scotland
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:09:03 -0700

... brand Ted Baker and Michael Kors. In the UK Sir Robert McAlpine has been selected as the contractor for the £150m Victoria Gate mall in Leeds with the site, which will house the city's first John Lewis store, expected to open towards the end of ...
 
The Wall Street Transcript
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 23:45:00 -0700

At Victoria Gate, Sir Robert McAlpine has been appointed the contractor, and the £150 million scheme, which will deliver 34,000m² of high-quality retail including a new John Lewis, is due to be completed by the end of 2016. Construction of Le Jeu de ...
 
Construction Enquirer
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 23:11:15 -0700

Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci have set-up the scheme to compensate victims. Anyone on The Consulting Association database is guaranteed £1,000 with payments rising up to £100,000 ...
 
PR Newswire UK (press release)
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 05:33:45 -0700

Speakers will include Terry Stocks, Deputy Head of the Estates Department, Ministry of Justice, Malcolm Taylor, Head of Technical Information, Crossrail, James Anwyl, Director at Eurobuild and Rebecca Hodgson-Jones, Head of BIM at Sir Robert McAlpine.
 
Construction Enquirer
Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:30:00 -0700

Sir Robert McAlpine and Keltbray have been instructed to develop detailed strategies for demolition and construction work. Talk to the Enquirer. To share your stories email Grant Prior or Aaron Morby... always off the record. earls-court-190x140 ...
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