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Alsop sell-out sparks design fears

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The rescue package that has kept Will Alsop’s struggling practice afloat could mean the end of his trademark wacky designs.

Observers fear the deal, struck with venture capitalist R Capital, will see the practice become more commercially driven and less design-led.

At the end of last month Alsop Ltd sold 40 per cent of the company to R Capital in return for a substantial cash injection in a bid to keep the business running.

As a result all its assets were transferred to a new company - Alsop & Partners - and Alsop Ltd went into liquidation.

Christian Spencer-Davies of A Models, who has worked closely with Alsop Architects (a trading name of Alsop Ltd) in the past, feels the move will have ‘inevitable affects’.

‘If the practice is going to be driven by the 40 per cent interest of the venture capitalist, by definition it will be more commercial, ’ he said. ‘It’s disappointing because we liked working with them and they are nice people.

‘I suspect some people are owed substantial amounts - and we are owed a small amount - but we are under the impression that the debts won’t be paid. We would certainly be more cautious about working with them again, ’ Spencer-Davies added.

The recent restructuring follows a raft of redundancies at the company as well as the resignation of Christophe Egret and influential managing director James Allen, viewed by some as the ‘cornerstone’ of the business (AJ 14.10.04).

A key factor behind Alsop’s recent financial difficulties has been the collapse of the controversial ‘Cloud’ project in Liverpool. The cancelling of the Fourth Grace scheme also caused the closure of the company’s Rotterdam office.

However, a spokeswoman for Alsop & Partners maintained that there would be no concessions to any commercial interests following the recent cash injection.

‘Design will not be compromised at all, ’ she said. ‘The intention of the outside investment was to put the practice on a firmer financial footing. We are now concentrating on moving forward.’ Will Alsop believes that the new company structure will help the practice pursue long-term objectives in both North America and China.

‘This support enables us to put the disappointment of the Fourth Grace project behind us, and to build on our real successes and achievements in the UK, Canada and the Far East, ’ he said.

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