Zaha Hadid’s business partner Patrik Schumacher has claimed three of the executors of the late architect’s estate tried to force him to quit the practice and demanded her name be removed from the company’s title
The shock allegations emerged in a 20-page court document lodged by Schumacher at the High Court as part of a bid to oust and replace Hadid’s friends Peter Palumbo and Brian Clarke and her niece Rana Hadid as executors of her £67.2 million estate.
The particulars of claim, recently filed at the probate court, allege that the three acted ‘with unjustified hostility towards’ Schumacher – who is also an executor of the will – and ‘undermined [the practice’s] ability to continue as a going concern’.
According to Schumacher, the executors attempted to ‘alter the principles and business patterns’ of the architectural practice Zaha Hadid Limited – which trades as Zaha Hadid Architects – after assuming control of the board of Zaha Hadid Holdings (ZHH), its parent company.
All four remain directors of the holding company, and Schumacher claims they have overridden his power of veto in making decisions that affect the running of the practice.
Schumacher asserts that Zaha Hadid ’s letter of wishes spelt out how he was to remain in charge of the practice Zaha Hadid Limited and benefit from half of its income and capital.
But, he says, the three have shown increasing hostility towards him following Schumacher’s infamous and controversial outburst at the World Architecture Festival in late 2016. And he says the executors, by releasing a joint statement criticising his position, ‘cast doubt on [his] ability to run Zaha Hadid Limited in keeping with the principles adopted in Hadid’s lifetime’.
The document adds that Palumbo, Clarke and Rana Hadid had ‘used this speech as justification that [Zaha Hadid Limited/Zaha Hadid Architects] should cease using any trading name featuring the words Zaha Hadid’.
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The particulars of the claim complain too that the executors, as board directors of ZHH, had ‘exercised the shareholder powers of [the holding company] to direct the management] of the practice and threatened to ‘dismiss Schumacher as a director and reduce his role in the management of Zaha Hadid Limited’.
Schumacher also criticises the decision of ZHH’s board to exercise its powers as sole shareholder of the practice and declare an interim dividend to ZHH of £4.5 million and a further payment of £3.25 million ‘thereby reducing [the practice’s] ability to continue as a going concern’.
He was unhappy too at the appointment, on the say-so of ZHH, of a number of new directors to the practice’s board – a move that raised concern among 36 practice directors and senior staff who wrote a letter to the executors to complain.
Schumacher claims that if he ’objected or interfered’ to the appointment of these directors to the Zaha Hadid Limited board, or the transfer of Hadid’s artworks from the company to the foundation ’his employment [at the practice] would be terminated’.
He also alleges that he was not allowed to speak at Hadid’s memorial service in September 2016 and that the three had asked the directors of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery to exclude him from the dinner marking the opening of an exhibition of Hadid’s work.
When the action first came to light last year, a lawyer acting for the three executors claimed Schumacher was ‘seeking to gain financially’ from the estate but the architect has flatly denied this.
Palumbo, Clarke and Rana Hadid were contacted for comment.
A statement from Zaha Hadid Architects (08.01.19)
We hope this matter can be settled quickly and amicably, to the satisfaction of all parties. After another successful year, the practice goes from strength to strength and our business is unaffected by the subject matter of the dispute. We remain focused on serving our clients and building on the achievements of Dame Zaha.