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Haworth Tompkins forms employee ownership trust

Haworth Tompkins staff pic 2019
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Stirling Prize-winning practice Haworth Tompkins has become the latest practice to hand its keys to the staff

The company has established an employee ownership trust that now holds 55 per cent of its shares, while five directors share the remaining 45 per cent. 

Associate director Lucy Picardo and directors Toby Johnson and Chris Fellner will act as trustees, joined by independent voices Robert Postlethwaite and Caroline Cole. They will meet every three months to oversee the way the company is being led by the board.

Johnson told the AJ that the decision to change the ownership structure came from talks about succession planning.

‘There was a desire to have as much overlap as possible between one set of directors and the next,’ he said. ‘We also wanted some of the profit to be shared among the staff. Employee ownership is a relatively new format; it seems to be popular for architecture practices and it feels like a good fit.’

He described the move as the start of a 10-year succession plan, with Fellner and fellow director Roger Watts buying shares in the business, making them partners alongside Johnson, founding directors Graham Haworth and Steve Tompkins, and the new trust. 

‘The beauty is that this is a flexible model that will allow succession to happen gradually so [the existing directors] can step back as and when we have had enough,’ said Johnson. ‘Personally I am still enjoying what I do and relish the opportunity to work as long as I can.’

The north London-based practice was founded in 1991 and won the Stirling Prize in 2014 with its Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. Last year it completed a restoration of London’s Battersea Arts Centre.

Employee ownership is becoming increasingly popular with UK architecture businesses.

Earlier this year, Assael revealed plans to become the 18th AJ100 practice to become employee-owned after co-founders John Assael and Russell Pedley turned down a big money offer from the US.

In February, Purcell also stated its intention to become employee owned.

The so-called ‘John Lewis model’ was pioneered in the architecture sector by Make when it launched in 2004.

Haworth Tompkins set out 13 guiding principles for the trust to abide by:

  • Employee benefit
  • Reputation
  • Creative leadership
  • Open communication
  • Financial stability
  • Innovation
  • Social value
  • Sustainability
  • Creative diversity
  • Fairness and equal opportunity
  • Employee voices
  • Work-life balance
  • Sharing the rewards of success
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