13/06/2006 - 22:00

Multiplex founder Roberts passes away

13/06/2006 - 22:00

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Multiplex founder and construction pioneer John Roberts, one of the giants of Western Australian industry, passed away last week at age of 73 after succumbing to a long illness.

Multiplex founder Roberts passes away

Multiplex founder and construction pioneer John Roberts, one of the giants of Western Australian industry, passed away last week at age of 73 after succumbing to a long illness.

Mr Roberts founded Multiplex in Perth in 1962, getting a start with sewerage infrastructure in the small but growing city.

The company grew to become a dominant force in WA major construction to a rare Australian-based global player in the property and construction sectors – with much of Multiplex’s Australian success reliant on an apparent accord with the sector’s traditional foes, the unions.

In 2002, it was reported that the Cole inquiry into the building industry had been told that Multiplex was a heavy contributor to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union coffers.

While to many in business that relationship may have seemed unusual, Multiplex had an enviable reputation for delivering on time and on budget in an industry ridden with IR issues.

As a result, many of Perth’s biggest buildings, such as the convention centre and several large office towers, were built by Multiplex, which also constructed Stadium Australia for the Olympic Games in Sydney.

In 1988, Mr Roberts was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to the construction and horse racing industries.

The Australian Constructors’ Association acknowledged his input to the construction sector with a lifetime achievement award in 1999.

Multiplex listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in December 2003, and today employs about 2,000 people across offices in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Middle East.

All of Mr Roberts’ children work in the business, with son, Andrew, running it from its Sydney headquarters. Tim is responsible for WA operations.

One of the group’s recent construction contracts was the high profile, highly publicised new Wembley Stadium in London, which has been beset by cost over-runs and delays.

It was originally due for completion in time for the FA Cup soccer final last month, but is now not due to be substantially completed until later this year.

Litigation linked to the Wembley contract is likely to continue for some period, leaving a legacy that surely would have disappointed the construction magnate and which forced him out of the Multiplex chairmanship a year ago.

Mr Roberts is the second major WA business identity to pass away this year, following the death of property tycoon Bill Wyllie in March.

Despite its difficulties, Multiplex is still a significant player on the Australian construction scene and retains a market capitalisation of almost $3 billion.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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