Siteserv chief happy to answer the call from Denis O’Brien
From Esat to Siteserv, Sean Corkery has spent much of his recent career following in the footsteps of the telecoms billionaire
Sean Corkery: “We should follow the Digicel map. It is in high growth, weak infrastructure markets . . . If we didn’t have the shareholder we have, it would be harder to go there.” Photograph: Eric Luke
In 1997, Sean Corkery got a call from a headhunter acting on behalf of Denis O’Brien. “I didn’t know Denis from Adam,” he says.
One Friday afternoon he met Leslie Buckley and Mark Roden, two Esat executives. “They liked me. I went off on the plane on the Saturday or Sunday to Boston to meet Denis, where he was doing a roadshow for the flotation.”
O’Brien liked him too. He was hired as Esat’s chief operations officer, and held the position until it was sold in 2000. Corkery then joined Dell, although he maintained his links with O’Brien’s camp.
Earlier this year, O’Brien called for him again. More than a year previously, the telecoms billionaire had snapped up Siteserv – a meal deal of construction services businesses cobbled together during the boom – for a knockdown €45 million.
When O’Brien bought it in April 2012, Siteserv was out for the count – insolvent, ineffectual, in a heap, and in need of rescue. O’Brien negotiated a controversial debt write-off of €90 million from Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, more of which later.
Corkery took over as chief executive and chairman of Siteserv in July of this year. His brief? Nothing less than transformation.
“I am a change-oriented guy: transformation is what I do,” says the immaculately-coiffed Corkman, stirring his coffee in the upstairs lobby of the Westbury hotel.
Corkery – calm, adroit, reserved, calculating – will need all of his skills to fulfil the task. As anyone in O’Brien’s circle will tell you, the billionaire hates being disappointed.
Siteserv was expensively assembled in the noughties by its founders, Brian Harvey and Niall McFadden. They bought a succession of different companies at boomtime prices. All were in some way or other related to the construction industry.
Harvey did “a reasonable job of bringing five or six businesses together” before he quit as chief executive earlier this year, Corkery says. “But you could argue he paid way too much for all of them.” Then again, didn’t everybody pay too much for everything back then?
Siteserv, the holding company, consists of six main operating units. Sierra, which under the old regime was mainly a civil engineering business, is the largest at 40 per cent of the company.
The other Siteserv pillar is Deborah Services Limited (DSL), an industrial services provider, which Corkery wants to grow quickly in the UK and Ireland.
Together, the two units account for more than three quarters of Siteserv’s revenues, which Corkery says will hit €230 million this year, up about 25 per cent. Profits, Corkery says, are “about seven per cent”, or up to €16 million this year.
The other fifth of its revenues comes from a combination of Eventserv, which supplies fencing and stages to concerts; Holgate, which specialises in motorway noise barriers; Roankabin, which supplies prefabricated buildings; and Siteserv Access and Formwork, which supplies scaffolding.