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In one of the least-likely news stories for some months, Will Alsop and a group of venture capitalists who part-owned Will Alsop Design, agreed last Thursday to sell the firm for £1.8 million to the listed SMC Group. The group, founded by Stewart McColl, is one of the most financially driven architectural businesses in the UK today. Just minutes after the announcement, Ed Dorrell caught up with McColl.

He was in exuberant form.

You must be pretty chuffed?

I am absolutely delighted. This is some of the best news I have had for a very long time. In about half an hour I am going to be heading over to Will's to meet some of the people there and have a celebration.

How long has this deal been in the pipeline?

Not for very long. It's been in the pipeline for just over three weeks now. It has been an intense few weeks.

Was Will back in financial trouble?

I can't imagine he'd want to give up control of his practice easily?

This is not the kind of thing we need to discuss now. The major message is that this is a great deal for everyone involved and everyone is extremely pleased with the agreement.

Who approached who?

Alsop came to us about three weeks ago. Colin GilmoreMerchant [Alsop's managing director] phoned me up and suggested we meet. We have been speaking ever since. I met Will for the first time a week ago last Tuesday and I have to say that I couldn't believe how brilliantly we got on. I think the businesses will get on well.

Is SMC going to own the firm lock, stock and barrel?

Absolutely. From tomorrow, if you phone up Will's office the receptionist will answer the phone 'SMC Alsop'.

You've bought out the venture capitalists?

That's right. That is mainly what the negotiations have been about over the last few weeks.

So Will will maintain control over his office?


But there will be some changes to Will's business?

There are one or two changes but nothing major. We will be taking out the financial director who was put in place by the venture capitalists and we'll take control of that kind of thing. But Colin GilmoreMerchant will remain as the managing director.

Presumably you believe that Will will bring a lot more design credibility to the SMC Group?

We do believe that Will's reputation will make a big difference to the SMC group.

How's he going to work within the business?

He'll still have control over his office. But I also want him to have an influence across all our companies. You have to remember that my philosophy is that there are thousands of solutions to every design brief.

Will he bring anything else to the SMC Group?

I am absolutely convinced he's going to really help with recruitment of young architects.

Not just through the name but also through his professorship at Vienna. He'll be able to hand-pick the best young talent and bring them in to the group.

Thanks Stewart, I'll leave you to the celebrations? Thanks Ed. I'm off to Will's now. It's extremely exciting.

This interview first appeared in full on www. ajplus. co. uk

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