Leslie G. “Les” McCraw, who expanded Fluor Corp. into a global diversified powerhouse in the 1990s as chairman and CEO but whose forays were costly and prompted successors to shed non-core businesses, died on May 25 in Greenville, S.C., at age 75. He suffered from cancer since 1997, when he stepped down from the construction giant.
McCraw rose quickly through the Fluor executive ranks after its purchase of Greenville-based Daniel Construction in 1977. He was named Daniel CEO and joined the Fluor board in 1984. Two years later, the engineering, construction and maintenance businesses of Fluor and Daniel were merged into a new Irvine, Calif.-based company, named Fluor Daniel, of which McCraw became president and CEO. He was named president of Fluor Corp. in 1988, CEO in 1990 and chairman in 1991.
Fluor says that, under McCraw’s reign, the company reached into new and profitable areas of building construction, such as prisons and chemical factories, and undertook “aggressive global expansion.” He also cut “the level of authority” at the firm, broadening control to more employees. “Through Les’ leadership, Fluor grew significantly,” says David Seaton, the company’s current CEO. “More importantly, he shepherded Fluor’s focus on safety, creating a true culture of safety.”
But soon after McCraw’s departure, Fluor moved to slash spending, returning to its core businesses and a traditional chain of command. The contractor jettisoned its equipment unit. At the time, Fluor said earnings would fall $100 million below projections. Its stock hit an annual low.
McCraw was named to high-level posts at several international construction, business and academic groups. He was a lifetime trustee of Clemson University.