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HLM men clinch deal to become multimillionaires

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Three directors at hlm Architects are set to become multimillionaires on paper when their practice takes over communications and marketing company, Osprey Communications. Chairman Chris Liddle, chief executive Rod Fraser and design director Les Welsh are each set to be worth an extra £4 million if plans to tie up with the listed company come off over the next two months.

The unusual move will see the limited company become one public company, trading as an architecture practice and a communications agency producing branding and signage.

'We are looking to build a design plc and it seems logical to offer a range of communications skills to our clients,' said Liddle. 'Take a major new hospital - the amount of signage and printed material they need is absolutely enormous.'

Other markets for the new company, which will be called RockArchimedia (AJ 6.4.00), include pr work for the building materials suppliers and public finance initiative projects abroad.

In the uk, hlm specialises in pfi projects building hospitals, schools and army facilities. It aims to plough £5 million into research and development including new whole-life costing processes and ways of balancing design and cost.

Two other directors, John Ferguson and David Cafferty, stand to increase their wealth by around £1.6 million each. The paper profit for the practice heads will result from a deal which will give hlm's former owners two- thirds of the new business, which should start trading on the London Stock Exchange at a market capitalisation of £25 million.

The new company is also planning to buy up other architectural practices and marketing agencies, and aims to increase its combined staff from 275 to around 500 within eighteen months through a combination of recruitment and acquisition.

Stock market analysts were surprised at the move. Media analyst at ccf Charterhouse Alex de Groote said: 'It's unusual because architects, like firms of solicitors and doctors, don't generally need to find equity through the capital markets.'

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