AKT buy-out bucks merger trend
After six years with global giant White Young Green (WYG), star engineer Adams Kara Taylor (AKT) has completed a shock management buy-out
The move, studio director Hanif Kara says, means a renewed focus on ‘quality and innovation’ and will provide better value for architects.
The £3.75 million deal, struck by the 117-strong Clerkenwell-based consultancy last week, is little more than a third of the total cost of £10.5 million WYG, which employs more than 2,500 staff, paid for AKT in 2006.
Speaking exclusively to the AJ as the outfit revealed its new name, AKT II, director Hanif Kara admitted the takeover hadn’t worked and added: ‘Most people disappear once they sell out.’
The buy-out marks a reversal of the consolidation trend that has seen multi-disciplinary mega-firms like Aecom emerge in recent years.
Despite hailing the merger with WYG as a ‘compelling strategic fit’ based on ‘chemistry’ back in 2006 (AJ 16.11.06), Kara said that two years into the partnership, the recession had meant fewer opportunities to work on ‘great designs’.
He added: ‘As soon as the market shot down we were thinking: what do we do, open a new company, retire, join Aecom?’
Kara said, that like him, the other directors are ‘architecture groupies’ and have collaborated with Norman Foster, David Chipperfield and with Zaha Hadid on the Stirling-shortlisted Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The bond with WYG, said Kara, came unstuck because the parent firm was ‘quantity driven’ whereas AKT was motivated by ‘quality and innovation’.
The merger also came with a ‘big promise’ of an international workload which apparently never materialised. Furthermore, the impersonal project-delivery approach unsettled AKT. Design team intimacy ‘doesn’t work when you’re a plc… and we felt like we were cheating architects because obviously our fees were much higher [because] we were having to support a bigger machine.’
For fellow director Paul Scott, independence was a matter of integrity. ‘Mergers of recent years have stripped identity and skills from many people. That’s not good for the industry and it’s not good for projects; we’re one of the few people bucking that trend.’
AKT II is working on a Zaha Hadid-designed opera house in Rabat, Morocco; and three office schemes in London.
Birmingham New Street redevelopment by Foreign Office Architects
Sheikh Zayed National Museum, UAE, by Foster + Partners
Chobham Academy, Olympic Park London, by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Turner Contemporary by David Chipperfield Architects
Angel Building, London, by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris