It's not easy to finish number one. But as any sports fan knows, it's even harder to repeat.
That's the case with the Globe 100, the Boston Globe's annual ranking of Massachusetts' best-performing public companies. In the course of nearly two decades, only one firm had managed to lead the rankings two years in a row. Until now.
Building on a remarkable comeback that vaulted Perini to the top in the 2007 list, the 114-year-old firm more than doubled its profit in the last year, booked nearly $4 billion in new projects, and cemented its reputation as preferred contractor for the booming casino industry.
"Periodically, business throws you a curve," says chief executive Ron Tutor, "and everything goes right."
But Perini's success is far more than luck. It began just over a decade ago when Tutor took over the company, still reeling from the real estate crash of the early 1990s and a series of bad investments. Instead of accountants, lawyers, and investment specialists, Tutor filled executive offices with construction pros. He repositioned Perini as a high-end specialty contractor and found a lucrative niche: casinos, resorts, and hotels.
As gambling has boomed, so has Perini, which reported a backlog of projects valued at $7.6 billion at the end of 2007. In Las Vegas, the company is building the $7.4 billion MGM Mirage CityCenter, a sprawling complex of hotels, casinos, condominiums, and shops, and the $1.8 billion Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino. Closer to home, Perini is completing the $700 million MGM Grand at Foxwoods, the Connecticut casino complex operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. The hotel is scheduled to open this month.
"Perini came out to be the best choice," says Gillian Murphy, senior vice president and general manager of the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. "They delivered what they promised, on time and on budget."
On-time and on-budget performances are why Perini keeps getting the big contracts, Wall Street analysts say. Delays are particularly costly for resort casinos, where investments are huge and late openings mean millions in lost revenue. MGM Mirage, for example, is spending some $200 million a month to build CityCenter. "If you're a couple months late," says Robert H. Baldwin, MGM Mirage's chief design and construction officer, "it gets pretty expensive."
Perini isn't just building casinos. In October, Perini won $68.5 million in new orders to construct secure buildings and other facilities in Iraq, adding to more than $1 billion in work the company has undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. It has landed transit projects in New York, road projects in Maryland, and school buildings in Florida.
Perini's 2005 acquisition of Rudolph and Sletten is also paying off. The California firm specializes in hospital and institutional construction, which, like casinos, is a high-end, high-margin niche. Revenues there have doubled to $1.2 billion since Perini took control.
"It all comes down to execution," says Richard Paget, an analyst at Morgan Joseph & Co., a New York investment firm, "and Perini has been executing very, very well."
Despite the slowing economy, Tutor sees no letup. Perini this year will complete a merger with Tutor's privately held civil construction firm, Tutor-Saliba Corp., of Sylmar, Calif., and Tutor is on the prowl for other acquisitions. Meanwhile, with a large backlog of projects and casinos still expanding, Tutor expects another big year in 2008.
Can you say "Three-peat?"
Robert Gavin can be reached at email@example.com.