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McColl buys William Gower: Weston Williamson 'is next'


Entrepreneur Stewart McColl has doubled staff numbers in his already sizeable portfolio of architectural practices by buying out 50-strong William Gower & Partners. And he has eyed the 'cutting edge' Weston Williamson and a mystery 'high design' firm of 10 staff based in Eastern Europe as the next on his hit-list.

McColl, the founder of the rapidly growing SMC Group, swooped to seal the all-cash, 100 per cent purchase of Leeds- and London-based practice William Gower from owner and managing director Gordon Finch last Friday, and has promised to add to, rather than cull, its workforce.

He told the AJ that the company, which will be called SMC Gower Architects, was an attractive proposition because it was 'commercial' and boasted a list of clients including William Morrison.

Schemes on its books include a £50 million shopping centre near Manchester and offices for Business Homes. The practice has also just presented a scheme to the Dorchester Hotel on London's Park Lane to expand the building upwards.

McColl told the AJ: 'We'd like to see it become the most formidable practice in Yorkshire qualitywise, which will mean its size will increase. We want to make it more creative with the introduction of other members of the SMC Group.'

One such member through an ongoing association is Weston Williamson, which McColl has targeted as his next outright purchase.

The SMC Group was behind the bid for the Millennium Dome from Nomura, but following the failure of that proposal the network has also put together a new bid on behalf of developer Pilton.

The scheme is to redevelop the Dome as a musicrelated auditorium with a capacity of up to 55,000.

McColl confirmed plans had been submitted to English Partnerships. New competition arrangements for the controversial Greenwich Peninsula site are expected shortly.

The SMC Group now consists of nine firms and about 100 staff. It has also been approached by a small practice in Eastern Europe.McColl said that deal could go through in the coming weeks.

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