Granite Construction CEO to retire

Calling it “a bittersweet time,” William G. Dorey, president and chief executive officer of Granite Construction, announced his retirement Monday after 42 years with the company.

James H. Roberts, 53, who has been with the Granite since 1981 and served as executive vice president and chief operating officer since September 2009, will be stepping into the top slot when Dorey leaves Aug. 31. His appointment must be confirmed at the 2010 annual meeting.

“My goal is to further strengthen and grow our position in the industry while continuing to build and maintain the culture that has remained a cornerstone of Granite’s success for more than eight decades,” Roberts said.

Dorey, who has held the position since 2004, will continue as a member of the board of directors.

“No CEO has ever been more blessed,” Dorey said. He called his tenure at the company “a labor of love” and in a letter to friends and co-workers posted on the company website Monday, said his departure should come as no surprise. “I will be 66 years old in November and am one of the last of my generation of senior leaders to retire.”

When Dorey joined the company as a worker on a Grass Valley highway project, company revenues were about $60 million. They “did estimates by hand and multiplication with a slide rule,” Dorey said. “A typical transfer price for base rock, from one of our aggregate plants, was $1 per ton and we sold asphalt concrete to ourselves for $3.50 per ton. Our home market was Central California and we weren’t that big. We were privately held, and life was pretty simple.”

The now publicly owned company, which had $2 billion in revenues last year, builds large construction projects from driveways to multimillion dollar tunnels, dams and highway projects. Roberts takes the reins at a time when the industry is stalled. The company reported earlier this month first quarter revenues of $220.7 million compared to $347.4 million a year ago and a net loss for the quarter of nearly $41 million.

While it has been diversifying in recent years both geographically and into new industries, most of the company’s work is still aimed at the struggling California market. In recent conversations with shareholders and analysts, Dorey has cautioned that the global economic fallout is still affecting revenues and is not expected to improve this year.

“The challenges in today’s marketplace are real,” he told shareholders early this month. “They’re affecting our business. We can’t escape that so we’re going to have to determine how to deal with those challenges.”

Dorey describes his successor as a proven leader “who has been delivering the goods for 28 years. Dorey intends to stay involved with the company “to the degree that I can be helpful” and he hopes “to be a seat-filler at many San Francisco Giants baseball games.”

Roberts has served in several roles at the company including senior vice president and manager of Granite West, vice president and assistant branch division manager and regional manager of the company’s Nevada and Utah operations. He was chair of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, president of the Nevada Chapter of the Associated General Contractors and a member of the Nevada Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. He is a trustee emeritus of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation. A California native, Roberts earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in civil engineering from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. He is a graduate of the Executive Program at Stanford University.

Company shares were up 92 cents Monday to close at $32.80. In the past year, shares have traded between $27.14 and $38.37.