Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby missarchi » Sat Aug 01, 2009 10:21 am

I always find it strange why they where on the back of the book...
What I find even more strange is nama is operating out of T old offices.
Like a production line...
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:06 pm

KerryBog2 wrote:Says it all about Zoe’s internal controls, the ineptness of their finance dept, and the bordering on criminal unprofessionalism of their external accountants who signed off on that application.

And you consistently suggest that they get involved with running NAMA?????

Move on.
Rs
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Kerry Bog,

Of course you are completely correct in everything you have said above. Once again, thanks for displaying your common sense, and pointing out the obvious and plain facts of the matter at hand.

I had some friends in the finance department at Zoe, not bad guys and not evil people at all. But I am afraid I have to agree with you. They were so far out of their depth they didn't seem to know it. Of course, they manipulated the accountancy report and that was a perfect textbook example of what was wrong with the Zoe company in the end. Something I never want to be associated with. However, that does not preclude me from looking into the full depth of the Zoe organisation and seeing the parts that were useful.

Zoe developments was no more or no less than a haven within the construction industry as a whole. A place where the brightest and best of the construction industry could go to develop their ideas with some small degree of finance and support from Liam Carroll. They went to Zoe developments, because they couldn't get the support anywhere else in the construction industry. It is those peoples' work and ideas I tried to express in my writing mostly.

I was shocked myself, having met a couple of Zoe finance guys lately and they still were believing their own bull shit. That is why I was so relieved that ACC bank did step in, and throw a bath of cold water reality over the lot of them. (Including the other Irish banks and the department of Fianance in Ireland itself) I wouldn't have been that generous myself, I would have taken out a blow torch. But that is a story for another day.

Now that all of this news has broke and we are finally well rid of Liam Carroll and Zoe developments, it is easy to claim it was text book. That it was logical and Zoe developments had to fall. The reality is, when I and other workers received these kinds of letters last May, there was no news in the papers about Zoe developments or Liam Carroll.



I wrote several hundred lines of insider information, in order to publish what I knew and what I thought of Zoe developments organisation. A lot of which has helped other claimants out there to try and conceptualize their own strategy and to bring their case against Liam Carroll. Make no mistake about it, myself and Liam Carroll do have a lot of unfinished business. But there are other pressing matters at hand, in particular, the setting up of NAMA. Trying to establish a positive future for this country.

The boys in finance were the only guys left rattling around on the second floor at Chapel House in Parnell Street. I think they believed if they stayed there and kept really quiet that everyone would simply forget about them. Isn't it always the case with people who borrow beyond their means. They did a very good job at putting on the brave front and pretending to feel 'relaxed' about the whole mess. But as Judge Kelly pointed out, with this large amounts of money, it is the lender who has a problem as well as the borrower.

The Zoe finance guys were good guys, nice guys. But boy were they smug about themselves. Where did they get that smugness from? I am glad that the no.2 and no.3 directors were named in addition to Liam Carroll in today's newspaper. For the first time ever, I might add. David Torpey and John Pope, both men I knew well and I still think were decent guys at the bottom of it. Dave had over a hundred directorships in the Zoe companies, while John had 65. Of course Liam had two hundred and something. Liam ordered the lobster.

For the record, I am not suggesting that we carry on with the same Zoe staff and bring it into NAMA. What I am suggesting is that we glean the structure and set up of the Zoe organisation from those directors (as part of their service to society) and we capture the best ideas from that to re-cycle into NAMA. The trouble is, good ideas are in very short supply these days and Ireland has produced so few home grown companies. We should try to understand the ones we have.

Moving on, is certainly the best advice Kerrybog, by far the best advice. I appreciate you are really pissed off with me right, but allow me to clarify what I was saying if I may one last time . . . I am going to use the analogy of building a race car, so buckle yourself in and wear a crash helmet.


The racing car analogy


What I am trying to suggest is that Zoe's business model is useful, it is innovative and it is 'born' out of the Irish context. It could be economical to run and very efficient when it is wrapped inside the correct chassis, transmission, tyres, aerodynamic design, driver, pit crew and mechanical maintenance. The Zoe developments exercise was disasterous in so many ways. That is, if you judge it as a developer's company. But if you judge it as a building company, as a designer of a process and a way to build things, I think it was second to none in this country. I know my way around enough of the construction industry in Ireland to know that much.

I always think of Carroll Shelby, the unlikely Texan automobile designer who put together a classic old British sports car chassis with an American pick up truck engine to create the Ford Cobra that became a race winner. In a similar way, I believe that Zoe engine for design and construction management could be transplanted into NAMA's execution plan in some way and taken advantage of. The Zoe contractual simplicity is the answer to an awful lot of the things that threaten to make NAMA too large, too cumbersome and too hard to handle for everyone concerned. Without the right kind of engine I don't think that NAMA will make it off the starting line.

http://thecobraferrariwars.com/

With the Zoe type of company, the designer, client and builder are the same person. That buys you a lot of things right there. The culture and the language is very consistent across the one organisation. Everyone is pulling in the same direction. They have no requirement for legal fights, they cannot sue each other because they are the same company. Their only choice is to get on with the job. That is the crucial insight. That is what I mean about transplanting an efficient and powerful 'engine for construction' into the heart of NAMA. That might not make sense to a banker. But I guarantee you, to any engineer out there it makes a lot of sense.


Break it into chunks


I am suggesting we break the NAMA portfolio which is away too large and cumbesome into chunks of say €4.0 billion each. (Rather like strategists in the F1 pit crew break a race into stages) We work on those chunks one at a time. Or perhaps a couple at a time, if we can form a couple of Zoe type companies to deal with it. In the same way a couple of cars race together as part of a team on a race track.

Zoe developments 'engine' is only required to take care of the construction management side of it. We would need help from designers also, who would work inside the same company as the contractor and the client. This closes the loop and allows us to start fixing projects right away. That is why Liam Carroll could cut all sorts of corners that other developers could not.

The important thing is that we choose someone wisely in this kind of Zoe contractual arrangement to become the client. Because the aim of NAMA is to release all of the assets into the private market within a 5-10 year time frame. The client in my hypothetical Zoe type arrangement would be someone who has run shopping centres, who has run housing rental projects, who has run logistical and warehousing enterprises in the past.

Without that experience on board, NAMA is doomed to fail. The projects will not be carried out in a way, that will enable us to release projects into the private part of the economy in the timeframe of 5-10 years.


How does one manage assets on this colossal scale?


We have some organisations in Ireland at the moment who can understand how to manage up to €4.0 billion Euros in capital. For instance, Dublin Airport Authority with the assistance of their consultant Turner and Townsend. We have the Railway Procurement Agency. We have ESB Networks, and we have the department of Agriculture which has distributed vast amounts of money throughout the Irish system over decades.

Those are the kinds of experts we should have sitting around the table to form the chassis, the transmission, the tyres and the aero-dynamics that NAMA will need. It doesn't really matter if we have to go back to retired department of agriculture civil servants or whoever, to glean the knowledge and insight we need. A long view will be demanded on this. Everyone has a role to play, even the oldest amongst our community.

ESB Networks are the ones in Ireland charged with management of the largest physical asset class we have over a long period of time. They have a particular and very valuable insight to contribute. I think if one consulted ESB networks they will claim that working with a €4.0 billion size of capital investment program is much too large. They have done it, but would never entertain the idea of doing it again.

I mean, that was a project with a simple straightforward agenda to upgrade all of the country's medium voltage transmission infrastructure. The plan wasn't complex like construction of shopping centres and town centres ultimately can be. Yet the Irish nation is looking to resolve €50-90 billion worth of bad real estate debt. Hold on a minute here, lets get some perspective on what it is we are trying to do. Before we saddle our grand children's grand children with more problems than they already have.


An engine that is proven and works


We do need a good reliable and efficient engine for construction at the heart of all of this. The one that Zoe designed and put into use over 20 odd years is proven and tested on the race track. I say we take advantage of that and we use it to give the Irish nation some fighting chance. It is quite simple. Intelligent people will learn to understand how it works very quickly and enjoy its benefits.

Zoe developments only provides the engine required in order to do construction. What I am suggesting is, we don't only transfer Liam's bad debts to NAMA. What we do is we transplant his engine of construction management and design into the heart of the NAMA vehicle also. Daft and all as that may sound.

What went wrong with Zoe developments from the start, it was operating its engine in isolation without all of the other parts. Typical of a group of engineers isn't it? To get so carried away with the gorgeous technology they are playing around with. But that doesn't mean it's engine is due for scrappage.

It's engine is perfect for the job NAMA has to do. Surviving 24 hours at Le Mans in one piece is no small task. Zoe developments has the only engine with the racing pedigree for that circuit. We must not throw that away. We must not throw out the baby with the bath water. Or else, where is all of the expertise in construction going to come from to build out NAMA's projects?


Enzo Ferrari of real estate


I often give the example of Michael Dell and his production line. As it grew and his company got into bigger stakes, Michael had the sense to call in the assistance from much better managers than himself. After Michael Dell's company grew beyond the hundreds of thousands of dollars scale, he hired the best 'million dollar' managers he could find.

Michael Dell even had to replace those managers when his business grew into billions of dollars. Obviously, there are less billion dollar standard managers or leaders out there, than there are million dollar men. When it comes to NAMA, it is larger than GE Real Estate Capital for heavens sake! Who are practically the Enzo Ferrari of the real estate financing world.


The small Cobra works that beat Enzo


Ireland is a tiny nation of a few million people, which expects to negotiate something away larger than anyone has tried in the past. We are in exactly the same position relative to the competition that Carroll Shelby found himself back in the early sixties. With his small group of 'Cobra works' car builders. What he set out to build was by no means conventional, but it changed the rules of the race at Le Mans.

That is why I offer some background into the Zoe developments organisation. Not everyone had a priveleged insight into the way the best construction company in Ireland did its business. I had to get some of that knowledge published. If any other company than Zoe developments had built as much in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger, it's debt would be more like four billion than 1.2 billion Euro today.

So the real question is, how do we integrate that very successful engine of design and construction management, into an overall vehicle that is robust and ready for race track conditions? Because the race track is exactly where we are going with this NAMA vehicle, make no mistake about it. If we are to burn our way through this €50-90 billion of toxic debt, (think of it like 24 hours of non-stop driving at Le Mans world championship) we will need the best car and driver to make it to the chequered flag.


Respectfully,

Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby KerryBog2 » Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:21 pm

garethace wrote:Moving on, is certainly the best advice Kerrybog, by far the best advice. I appreciate you are really pissed off with me right, but allow me to clarify what I was saying if I may one last time.


Agreed, move on. No, I’m not pissed off; I just think you are getting wider off the mark with every successive and ever-lengthening post and it slightly irks me to see balderdash go unchallenged.

I do not want to seem selective, but among the many howlers is this, for example:
garethace wrote:The trouble is, good ideas are in very short supply these days and Ireland has produced so few home grown companies. We should try to understand the ones we have.


Ireland is a tiny and very finite market, so the better companies, or those with ambition to grow, export their product or services. Those with good ideas make them work and are understood by the shareholders and business community alike. As for “so few home grown companies”, American companies in Ireland employ about 100k people. Irish companies in the US (e.g. CRH, Smurfit, Kerry, Kingspan, to name just a few) employ about 86k people.. Now compare the relative sizes of the populations and economies......

Companies like Mercury and the old MF Kent built turnkey projects all over North Africa and the Middle East. Kentz is doing similar overseas today. The real tragedy is that for years the population of Ireland has been investing in property both here and overseas to the detriment of seed/venture capital and cash for R&D. In recent years forty times more cash went into property than into VC. Zoe, McNamara, and others lost the plot and in this tiny island were building more houses for our piddling little population that all the builders in the UK were building for theirs, a population size almost twenty times greater. Over a few years the number of hotel rooms trebled, during a post 9/11 period when Americans were not travelling and the price of oil was going through the roof. If Zoe’s management was any good they would have been able to smell the coffee. Whatever model they had (and I’m not convinced they knew that they had one) is flawed and should be binned.

garethace wrote:I am going to use the analogy of building a race car, so buckle yourself in and wear a crash helmet.

You seem keen on cars. So here are my two analogies. Liam Carroll is to NAMA what John De Lorean was to Lotus. The second is that Zoe is the Ford Edsel of construction companies.

Anyone who worked in a big now insolvent construction company or in a senior lending role in a bank is tainted. Like it or not, fair or unfair, believe it or not, that is how NAMA will perceive them. Words like touch and bargepole come to mind.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Sat Aug 01, 2009 10:03 pm

Ireland is a tiny and very finite market, so the better companies, or those with ambition to grow, export their product or services. Those with good ideas make them work and are understood by the shareholders and business community alike.


Indeed, never a truer word spoken, one must makes one's ideas understood across a broad spectrum. It is important.

The real tragedy is that for years the population of Ireland has been investing in property both here and overseas to the detriment of seed/venture capital and cash for R&D.


I am glad someone else has mentioned this fact. It really does get up my nose, the scraps that research in Ireland had to exist on, even as the country got richer and richer. What really made me laugh was Brian Cowen's insistence that money be pumped back into the research system once the collapse entered its really serious stages late last year. It seemed to me, like pumping a mal-nurished child with food, it not having absorbed anything through its digestive system in too long. It would probably do more harm than good.

I hate to pick on Liz O'Kane. She has obviously had a much more successful career than my one. So I shouldn't throw stones. But I do know the word that Liz was spreading was 'music to the ears' of Irish property developers. The notion that Liz and so many others were 'talking up' the product they were producing day in day out, week after week, every available hour on the TV set and national radio and newspapers. That was the outside limit of creativity Irish developers had in what to do with their millions. Have TV presenters telling you, you need to buy more and more of their product. It is really shocking.

As I have gone to lengths to point out, the Irish builders did know building, if they knew nothing else. But they didn't know how irrelevant building aught to be in the context of Ireland, when you compare it to other possible routes to go in terms of investment.

If Zoe’s management was any good they would have been able to smell the coffee.


Zoe's management were dead as door nails, in terms of ideas outside the narrow field that they knew. That is the honest to goodness truth of the matter. Judge Kelly's description of the captains that steered the ship onto the rocks could not be more apt. Except, the metaphor could be extended a lot further and encompass a widespread 'building culture' in Ireland, most of which steered the entire country onto the rocks. In the writing above, I was simply trying to poke through the wreckage and find something, anything that might be re-useable again. But I take your point, that so much of it was rubbish, even while the ship was sailing on the open seas, that it is hardly worth the effort now.

Don't get me wrong though. I understand the science, technology and internet economy better than most people in Ireland. I am pretty darn sharp when it comes to that. Innovation and design has always been my primary fascination, not building or architecture. You only have to look at the twentieth century to see all of the achievements humanity has made in science and progress. But I was so disappointed with the representation of the Irish building culture in the media, that I had to write something to try and describe it a bit better. If only for my own purposes. But I wanted to share it also, in case it was of any value to anyone else.

Whatever model they had (and I’m not convinced they knew that they had one) is flawed and should be binned.


They didn't even know they had one. I am simply trying to retrofit a company with a broad philosophy it never had to begin with. In ways, I am trying to interpret what 'might have been'. I would imagine if people from Zoe read my writing they would be as puzzled or even more puzzled than everyone else here. There were one or two individuals in the Zoe organisation who had taken considerable trouble to analyse what was going on from anthropological point of view. But those couple of individuals weren't near the three in charge, Carroll, Torpey and Pope, in order to have authority to steer the company on a different course.

You seem keen on cars. So here are my two analogies. Liam Carroll is to NAMA what John De Lorean was to Lotus. The second is that Zoe is the Ford Edsel of construction companies.


I cannot argue with your point of view. Some things about the construction company that Carroll built weren't at all as fantastic as I have tried to represent above. Again, it goes back to those couple of people in Zoe developments who weren't in a position of authority, but could see a future. Not that their vision would have been accomodated within the Zoe organisation. Still, they had some vision and it is what they tried to live by. It is a little like seeing someone who has great ideas, but no resources with which to capitalize on their ideas. It was those people that I really wanted to honour in my writing.

Anyone who worked in a big now insolvent construction company or in a senior lending role in a bank is tainted. Like it or not, fair or unfair, believe it or not, that is how NAMA will perceive them. Words like touch and bargepole come to mind.


I am becoming aware of this and I think you are on the mark. Again, I simply wanted to write something in order to honour a couple of guys I knew at Zoe who were true innovators. Recognized as such, or not.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Sun Aug 02, 2009 12:50 pm

Ireland is a tiny and very finite market, so the better companies, or those with ambition to grow, export their product or services. Those with good ideas make them work and are understood by the shareholders and business community alike.


I was thinking a little bit about this in relation to agriculture, for instance the Irish beef industry, which is a home grown product that incorporates a lot of leading edge and traditional knowledge, but exports primarily to a world market place.

Funnily enough I lived on a beef farm until I was seventeen years of age and never had any interest whatsoever in that business.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:04 am

Liam hasn't changed much.

Work has always been his best therapy.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2009/0803/1224251929674.html

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:09 am

-

Joe Brennan, Dearbhail McDonald and Tom Molloy in today's Indo. They compare the Carroll case to that of the First Equity case from earlier this year.

The country's highest court is due to sit in a special session today to decide on the fate of six key companies owned by the developer.


http://www.independent.ie/national-news/courts/lawyers-trawl-for-new-evidence-to-rescue-carrolls-ailing-empire-1849922.html

I have to submit a view, that this whole NAMA thing is taking off in a highly political direction now. When you find executive directors of the construction industry federation dishing out advice in relation to economic policy it worries me quite frankly.

The organisation’s director general Tom Parlon said the prospect of major banks seeking recovery of their debts from developers would have a disastrous effect on property prices and the economy.


http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0804/1224251960911.html

This was the old paradigm I think. In Ireland the cart pushed the horse instead of the other way around. I worked for Zoe developments, and there the directors would try to make everyone 'fearful' of them. They were extremely good in that capacity and suceeded in frightening a great deal of people in their industry. But in reality they weren't nearly as good, or as clever as they thought they were. Certainly, they were some of the most hard working, astute and clever people I have ever met. I am glad for all of the time that I spent working with every one of them. There is no better way to advance in chess, than to play a better opponent. But certainly, the intimidation tactic was one of their basic tools. Yes quite frankly, it was masculine and male dominated.

Builders effectively specified to those in power what they wanted, or imagined they wanted and duly got it handed to them. There was no 'leadership' involved in that process. Only a handful of people, each of whom were afraid of the other. To top it all off then, we had someone such as Liz O'Kane (and dozens of others lets be honest about it, including celebrity architects) busy trying to stuff more of the same product down our throats whenever we switched on a TV or opened a magazine. In short, the Irish population were expected to 'gross themselves out' on property investment, which we dutifully did. Despite our very limited means and over dependence on credit to do anything. But it still didn't solve anything and the plan did not work. Liz told young people of Ireland in May 2007 on RTE:

"My advice is to buy now. Whatever monies people have in their back pockets for stamp duty and should the next government abolish stamp duty for first timers this will simply put the price of properties for first time buyers... UP!"


Liz might as well have said put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. (Certainly a lot cheaper) It is the old paradigm, a kind of a follow on from the ultra Catholicism of the early 20th century in Ireland. The population was simple minded, and needed to be forced by a high priest or priestess to think in a certain way and how to behave. It is really scandalous. We thought in Ireland we had shaken off the shackles of religion and tradition. But really, we had only replaced one form of extreme devotion for another. So much for blazing a new trail. When are we going to break out of this vicious loop of self harm and self mutilation? Better to have the fire sale of Zoe's properties I say, and get on with doing something in this country other than looking backwards.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby DOC » Tue Aug 04, 2009 4:44 pm

Good man Brian - can't read your posts (can't concentrate on posts over about 4 lines!) but you came across well on radio.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 7:53 am

Thank Doc,

RTE told me it was something for the common man or woman, driving home in his or her car yesterday who are trying to get an impression of Liam Carroll.

A man whose business difficulties it appears will have potential bearing on their future.

From today's Irish Times, Authur Beesley.

By contrast, an immediate examinership would give Carroll and his creditors 100 days to develop a formula acceptable to all parties. Nama would be up and running within that timeframe, opening potential for the “bad bank” to become a party to the examinership and to seek to dictate the direction and pace of the proceedings.


http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2009/0805/1224252010109.html

The pace of the proceedings will be all crucial. I was thinking yesterday after the radio interview, of Carroll's many unoccupied residential units at the terminus of the LUAS line in Tallaght. Beautiful apartments in my mind. I am wondering if NAMA will finally be the body capable of bringing a long term view of Irish property to fruition. I am reminded of foreign business models to do with handling of residential property, whereby the developer maintains a relationship with the site over a period of many decades. If the Tallaght project built by Carroll for instance, which is complete but unused, were to move into NAMA, what is to stop NAMA realizing the 'value' of the Tallaght Cross project over a period of a decade or more using some sort of new rental model? Having proven the value and durability of such a rental model, the project could be handed over to the private portion of the economy to continue with.

I mean, Liam Carroll's model was to sell the units as fast as you could build them. A more involved and longer term approach was never tried or even considered. But we have a real opportunity with NAMA I think to introduce a new kind of rental product into the Irish market place. This has never been done before in the Irish market. We have no idea how it would be received. But it would represent a significant innovation for Irish property. What I do know is that Liam Carroll's approach from the beginning, with the shoe box apartment was to enable young people to acquire some equity, which they could put towards a future home purchase later in their lives.

There aught to be some viable financial model whereby, a young person can build up some level of equity through rent paid over time, without having to buy the shoe box outright at all. This requires a new financial model. I think that Dublin City Council and well meaning architectural consultants only managed to muddy the waters recently with the introduction of sustainable living sized apartments. Apartments that would be sustainable for family living. The move by Dublin City Council to introduce higher standards for apartment units attempts to look at a new problem. But it didn't attempt to address the old problem. Why were young people buying so many shoe boxes to begin with.

If the rental or tenant equity creation model could be proven at Tallaght, it would enable sites much closer to Dublin city centre to be made available, as mixed income residential developments. I am thinking of communities such as Dolphins Barn etc, where the 100% DCC tenant population are under siege from all sorts of difficulties. But still trying to hold on and trying to sustain themselves. A successful implementation of a rental model at Tallaght Cross, would open up such lands for re-development projects in the near to medium term. Imagine, the Hanover Quay project built by Paddy Kelly of around 500 residential units was the first development in the Dublin Docklands where mixed income groups were integrated together. On the back of that success, the DDDA were hoping to extend the idea further across new developments in the Docklands area.

Also from uthur Beesley's article today:

What is more, ACC has hardened its stance in relation to Carroll’s application for an examinership. No longer “guardedly neutral” in relation to the matter, now it opposes the examinership application. Although ACC declined to comment on the change in the bank’s strategy, it seems likely that the court will hear from it.


I did enjoy listening to Brian Lucey, a professor in Finance at Trinity College, in his interview on Morning Ireland yesterday mentioning that ACC had forced a more open and transparent discussion to take place in Ireland, regarding the question of distressed property developers. For that alone, we owe them some thanks.

http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0804/carrolll_av.html

Brian's Morning Ireland interview is audible at that link. Remember, the Dutch people have a very large population in the many millions living on an area the size of Munster. Ireland by contrast, as one architect described it, is an island that is almost 'empty' of people relative to its size. The Dutch tend to be more open in their dealings and in their culture than the Irish I think. Which speaks of the value of having foreign banking players operating in the Irish market.

Also from Authur Beesley and Mary Carolan in today's Times.

Mr Cush also argued the High Court erred in how it considered the property valuation element of the application. Mr Justice Kelly, he submitted, had gone beyond the evidence in substituting his own views on the property market for December 2008 valuations provided by two firms of estate agents – CBRE and Hooke McDonald.


http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/0805/1224252013218.html

This is the entire problem we face in Ireland as I see it. Where it is down to one of the most busy judges in the country to make the effort to express his own view. In the absense of any common sense or attempt at logic from any other direction. It is a black mark after all of our highly trained and highly intelligent professionals in the country that things were allowed to grow to this scale in terms of problems without any alarm bells ringing until now.

The famous architect Mies van der Rohe once said: The architect uses his pencil on his paper in order to understand the building through the act of drawing. The architect can almost feel the building through the pressure of his pencil on the page. When I did drawings of proposed projects for Carroll, what I felt through the pressure of my pencil on the page, was something I had never felt before. Something concerned me. If I had got this feeling, so had many other building professionals a lot more experienced and qualified than myself. But no one raised a red flag.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby BostonorBerlin » Wed Aug 05, 2009 6:06 pm

garethace wrote:Enzo Ferrari of real estate
I often give the example of Michael Dell and his production line. As it grew and his company got into bigger stakes, Michael had the sense to call in the assistance from much better managers than himself. After Michael Dell's company grew beyond the hundreds of thousands of dollars scale, he hired the best 'million dollar' managers he could find.

Michael Dell even had to replace those managers when his business grew into billions of dollars. Obviously, there are less billion dollar standard managers or leaders out there, than there are million dollar men. When it comes to NAMA, it is larger than GE Real Estate Capital for heavens sake! Who are practically the Enzo Ferrari of the real estate financing world.
Respectfully,
Brian O' Hanlon

ahh Michael Dell has taken over the reigns of Dell again cos the super-duper billion dollar managers he broght in have run the company into the ground and Dell are getting trounced by HP and Apple.

did someone mention Zoe at least paid everyone a decent salary.. they didnt pay everyone a decent salary, the borrowed excessively from their Bank and then gve that money to their employees so they would keep stoking the fire , theres a 2 billion euro difference.

enough of the guys in Zoe finance dept are nice guys ...
if your homeless or came from a dis-advantaged background and feck someones purse your a dirty little crook but if you wear a suit and talk posh but lump the taxpayer with 2 billion in debt your basically a nice guy
f'ing snobs, the only thing worse than a snob is a wannabe snob !
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 6:11 pm

BostonorBerlin,

Thanks for your input. Some good points raised there. As always, I am open to your suggestions. Contributions all welcome.

Michael Dell makes the point above in his autobiography, Direct from Dell. Michael noticed early on in the game, that his business was doing very well, but was growing at a break-neck speed. Michael Dell in later years has not witnessed the same acceleration of growth, but as you point out, is fighting a different kind of battle. A retreating kind of battle to hang on to market share which is eroding with the advances of other companies.

I made the point in the radio interview yesterday, that a lot of Irish developers began their careers with a bucket of nails and a tin of paint. I wonder is it possible to learn that game well enough to get out of that game and move on, and still have enough of your life time left to learn the bigger scale game. And how do you take a company, which you have nurtured and grown yourself over a long period of time and hand the reigns over to a more capable partner? These are perennial problems with business across the spectrum and not only in building construction.

We can blame Zoe yes. But what about all of the other developers? All of them blew their engines on the race track at around the same point on the speedometer. Around a billion Euro extension of loans. The load was simply too much for the engine they were running. I compare it to my old Renault Five motor car. It could take you around the world for a fiver's worth of petrol, as long as you didn't want to do over 45 mph. Anything above that and she became narky and unpredictable. Thankfully I didn't ask for more or I may not be around today. I think it was the Irish banking institutions who really are going to fail next. They didn't understand their vehicle nearly well enough and blew out its engine as a result.

This is my point with NAMA, choose the right engine and get to know its limitations like the back of your hand. I honestly don't know towards the end, what position Liam Carroll was in to say 'stop' to the Irish banking institutions, don't press the accelerator anymore. From a banking point of view, everything had gone well as they had accelerated past 20, 30 and 40 miles per hour. Why not keep going until we hit fifty at least? NAMA needs a more robust engine, and I believe we will burn through a half a dozen prototypes in order to find the right one to get us out of this mess. But they have to be tested on the track and worn in by the right kinds of drivers. In all possibility we will end up needing different customised cars for different tracks NAMA will have to race on.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby Bock the Robber » Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:53 pm

It sounds like The Borg.

Danninger / Zoe / Carroll produced a a cadre of true-believing zombies. It's terrifying.

And we're all going to pay for their hubris.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:01 pm

Bock the Robber wrote:It sounds like The Borg.

Danninger / Zoe / Carroll produced a a cadre of true-believing zombies. It's terrifying.

And we're all going to pay for their hubris.


Hence, my intention here to test the waters initially. To gauge what kind of public reaction there would be to a company or business process such as that developed at Zoe re-entering the Irish construction game. I don't know how the public is going to take that quite frankly. I do hope that the Irish public wakes up soon and expresses their opinion in one fashion or another. I have been wondering are people out there completely asleep to be honest.

On foot of the reaction, I hope to further gauge my own future direction. I have every intention to walk away from building for good after the newspaper articles I have read about my previous employer. That is the life decision I am faced with. Nothing would offer me more satisfaction than to see Ireland to improvise or to innovate an alternative model, which proves the Zoe approach completely incorrect and wrong. I would stand well back if that is the case. I hope that something happens soon however. The clock is ticking for all of us.

Regards,

Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby Bock the Robber » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:08 pm

Are you saying there's a new incarnation of Zoe, or something similar, waiting to step in?
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby KerryBog2 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:39 pm

garethace wrote:

Something concerned me. If I had got this feeling, so had many other building professionals a lot more experienced and qualified than myself. But no one raised a red flag.


Garethace,
Probably one of your better lines.

Lots of people saw a red flag, but most toed the line and ignored it. I know a few people who raised a red flag. They were brave, principled people; they kicked against what they, through years of experience, saw as a spiral with a cliff-edge and a large drop. Usually they were the older guys, who worked through the London property crash of the 80’s, who foresaw what was coming. They lost. They were told that they were not “team players”, that they were “too negative”, that they had “lost touch”, that they could not “move with the market”, they really no longer had a place in the “new world”. "Too old" (unsaid) and “risk averse.” (Ever consider the average age of Drumm, Sheehy, Goggin and their contemporaries?)
If lucky the red flag wavers were sidelined, but most lost their jobs. Sad, because as older guys they since have found it impossible to regain employment in what they are good at. Really good at; but now, as always, there is only one thing worse in the finance/property market than someone who was wrong, it is someone who was right.

Sorry to have missed you on radio,
Rs,
K.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:03 pm

Bock the Robber wrote:Are you saying there's a new incarnation of Zoe, or something similar, waiting to step in?


All I am saying, is that I am delighted that people are forming some opinion of Zoe and expressing themselves. That is a great positive step forward to the future. All our futures. As an employee of the company for two years, I don't think they had an opportunity to fully set their hooks into me. After all, we were quite busy for those two years. But certainly I was beginning to see the Zoe company as I wanted it to be, rather than how it really was. If that makes any sense. Kerry Bog is always a great help in pointing that out.

But as an employee of the Zoe company, personally speaking I would have felt more comfortable had the public at large voiced their concern as to how we were doing our business. I did get the impression that Liam Carroll imagined if he went about it quietly and did his business, no one would ever bother him. That in itself, I think, created the incentive to take more chances. Chances with what turns out to be a potential €2.3 billions worth of the Irish peoples' savings. As a nation we need to have an opinion on this and allow it to be heard.

I would still like to rejoin my engineer friends from Zoe to finish that half built shell of a shopping centre at the Parkway roundabout in Limerick. That would be something, if I did nothing else for the remainder of my building career.

Thanks to all here at Archiseek for the feedback received and opinions voiced.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:09 pm

Usually they were the older guys, who worked through the London property crash of the 80’s, who foresaw what was coming. They lost.


I heard a comment recently from one of that generation. He is up and running in Ireland currently. Still only a medium tier player, but those are certainly the next guys to step up the top division. He said he was lucky to get out of London with a million quid and his Mercedes.

(Ever consider the average age of Drumm, Sheehy, Goggin and their contemporaries?)


Very good point.

but now, as always, there is only one thing worse in the finance/property market than someone who was wrong, it is someone who was right.

Sorry to have missed you on radio,


My conclusion I left the interviewer with on radio was basically, that no matter how you played the game in Ireland in property, no matter how well you played it, you were still bound to lose. It seems to me like playing against the house. Only in movies like Ocean's Thirteen does the punter get away with the money bags. I think with Liam, when he had waded in for a cool billion, he was simply coerced by the banks to wade in even further. He was already compromised by that stage and losing a bit more wasn't going to improve or disimprove a reputation. That was really my point about the Renault 5. Having sped past 20, 30 and 40 mph, they tried for the all elusive 50mph.

If this is the case, then the whole idea of NAMA stinks to high heavens. Worse than that, it provides no future lesson for which the Irish banks should live by. NAMA is by no means a done deal. The Irish people still have time to raise their point of view. I would fully support them in whatever direction they choose. But choose something now and stick to it.

Basically, there is no transparency whatsoever, in the €2.3 billion worth of dealings between Carroll and Irish banking institutions. If the Irish taxpayer looks set to take possession of that debt sum, then I believe the least it has earned the right to, is a full and proper account of exactly what happened. Otherwise, all of this time wasting by the Supreme Court about this rescue plan, or that rescue plan is simply a smoke screen in order to distract time and attention away from asking the real questions, the Irish tax payers has a right to ask now. What exactly did go on?

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby Bock the Robber » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:13 pm

It's looking more like a cult than a construction company.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby wolffkran » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:13 pm

"I would still like to rejoin my engineer friends from Zoe to finish that half built shell of a shopping centre at the Parkway roundabout in Limerick. That would be something, if I did nothing else for the remainder of my building career" in your opinion can you see this happening Brian? or what outcome can you see for that structure.

As a former employee and with 4 years service i can say that i was treated very well indeed while working for Mr Carroll, the conditions i had while working for that man were second to none.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:20 pm

wolffkran wrote:As a former employee and with 4 years service i can say that i was treated very well indeed while working for Mr Carroll, the conditions i had while working for that man were second to none.


Thanks for the input Wolff kran.

You can see how much of a hard sell it is going to be. I liked working for Zoe too, but I am concerned about other peoples' reactions to what we achieved or set out to do.

Whatever about the money, that reputational problem is what worries me the most. It is very much out there, and I would like to understand what it is all about.

That was my singular motivation in going on radio yesterday. I was glad to receive the opportunity from RTE to speak on former employees' behalf.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby Bricks » Thu Aug 06, 2009 2:07 pm

wolffkran wrote:"I would still like to rejoin my engineer friends from Zoe to finish that half built shell of a shopping centre at the Parkway roundabout in Limerick. That would be something, if I did nothing else for the remainder of my building career" in your opinion can you see this happening Brian? or what outcome can you see for that structure.

As a former employee and with 4 years service i can say that i was treated very well indeed while working for Mr Carroll, the conditions i had while working for that man were second to none.


I too worked with Zoe for almost 6 years in the so called 'good times'.
Previous to working in Zoe's I worked for a couple of Architectural Consultancies as an architectural technician and arriving at the doors of Liam Carrolls office I thought I knew it all. I learnt more in the first month about comon sense approach to detailing and design than I had done in the two years previous.The Zoe culture was unique as we were both the designers, the builders and the client all wrapped up into one entity to achieve the end result. We worked as one, eventough there was friendly rivalries between each of the departments within the office and the hard hats on site. I remember listening to one engineer explain why he designed shallow wider concrete beams instead of narrow deeper beams because the guys on site who would poor it wouldn't have to worry about wet concrete getting into their wellingtons. Sounds funny but it was true. There was so much emphasis on designing details which made it easier for the guys on site to cope with and therefore resulting in a more effecient and cheaper system. Site formen would often ring me to express their difficulty with a particular aspect of the build, we would discuss the issue, verbally agree on a solution, revise the drawing and the courier would have it on site within an hour. Everyone knew their job within the organisation and the job got done.
It is hard to believe that the whole thing has fallen from its height a few short years ago when I was there to the sight of Liam begging the courts to protect him.

I too was treated very well working for Zoe's and I think most people who spent time there would agree. I recall meeting with a few former college mates in Dublin one night for a little re-union and we all spoke about our respective employers. When I told some of them who worked for large architectural practices in Ireland that I worked for Zoe's they laughed loud and wondered why I would work for such a company who 'designed boxes'.

By the time I was leaving I put out the word to my former college mates that there would be a vacancy in the Zoe household for someone. When I told them about the wages they could expect to get, they all turned up at my farewell party hoping I would put in a good word for them to get a slice of the action.

Liam Carroll may not be described as a gentleman but he was honest and respectful towards his workers and he gained respect in return.

It is hard to imagine a Liam Carroll that is now begging the courrts to protect him when he was the king of Zoeville just a few short years ago. I hope the guy will survive for old time sake.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:50 pm

wolffkran wrote:"I would still like to rejoin my engineer friends from Zoe to finish that half built shell of a shopping centre at the Parkway roundabout in Limerick. That would be something, if I did nothing else for the remainder of my building career"

in your opinion can you see this happening Brian?

or what outcome can you see for that structure?


Sorry Wolff Kran, I did not see your question tucked in there beside the quote, late last night.

I read with interest this piece in the Irish Independent today:

http://www.independent.ie/national-news/property-tycoon-seeks-public-support-for-rejected-plan-1852478.html

The normally media-shy Treasury Holdings impresario wants people in his hometown of Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, to publicly show their support for his multimillion euro development of a biotechnology campus on his family's land.


While reading the piece about Johnny Ronan in the paper, I was reminded very much about my time spent working at Dell computers. A lot of the people I worked with came from as far away as Tipperary. There was quite high unemployment there even during the best of times. The Tipperary people were very hard working and punctual workers at Dell. Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. Some weren't. But when I think about Danninger's Parkway shopping centre site, I was wondering if it could become a pharmaceutical plant. Then I thought about that and I realized that would be daft. With pharmaceutical plants, yes, they are huge and they create huge employment and contribute to the economy. Those are all of the 'good' things. But they are not very public. They demand all sorts of security etc.

I started thinking about the site of the Danninger shopping centre in Limerick. I thought to myself, who needs another shopping centre in Ireland these days? I mean seriously, we could live without it. But then I thought about Dundrum Shopping Centre here in Dublin that I know very well indeed. At the start I was a total snob and hated the sight of Dundrum Shopping Centre. I am almost ashamed to admit now, I have done a complete U-turn on that initial judgement and I find myself going there often. Perhaps not for the shopping itself, but for the general 'communal' buzz one gets. It is a much different buzz say, to going down Grafton Street or somewhere.

I thought about the Parkway Danninger site. I thought to myself, it would be wrong to make a pharmaceutical plant on that site. It could be done yes. But what that area of Limerick cries out for is its own Dundrum, it's own permeable and public domain. Something with the nice finishes and tiles that they have at Dundrum. Something where the shopping centre staff polish the glass every morning and ensure that everything looks sparkling and bling. I think we will get there somehow, because it is the right sort of project that Limerick needs.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:58 pm

We worked as one, even though there was friendly rivalries between each of the departments within the office and the hard hats on site.


There are a couple of Zoe ex. architects and ex. site agents, I wouldn't mind being stuck in a lift with some time.

I would enjoy watching the fire works fly.

I remember listening to one engineer explain why he designed shallow wider concrete beams instead of narrow deeper beams because the guys on site who would pour it wouldn't have to worry about wet concrete getting into their wellingtons. Sounds funny but it was true.


I know myself, they often didn't bother building the formwork to create any beams much. They designed so that there was only one well designed strong slab with a flush face top and bottom. That made it easier to mount services and things afterwards. Anyhow, guaranteed 100% wherever you did go to the trouble of making downstands, that is exactly where Liam Carroll would come along later, and need to knock it out due to some last minute change he would introduce.

Zoe head office was like 'mission control'. Liam Carroll was out there orbiting around his property galaxy in his second hand Toyota, in constant communication through the mobile phone. We all learned to second guess Liam and not to build beams or downstands if we could help it. If beams or supports were required later on, we could hang steel brackets. And sometimes having hung those steel brackets, Liam Carroll would decide to change his mind again, and the steel brackets would have to be re-done. So you could well say, when I look at any Danninger built project, I can actually see Liam Carroll himself poured into the structural design of the concrete. Such was the closeness of his relationship with his building team.

Everyone knew their job within the organisation and the job got done.


The strength came from the formation. I compare it alot to the Spartan army's Phalanx formation. How they fought in battle. It gave them the fighting output of an army double the size. Working for Zoe was a lot like a term in an army. One had to be quite committed, or at least I was. It was useful to me, because I was always a misfit as far as architecture was concerned and I benefitted enormously from the discipline. I felt disappointed when Sean O' Laoire asked me 'what was I doing working for them?'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx_formation

It is hard to believe that the whole thing has fallen from its height a few short years ago when I was there to the sight of Liam begging the courts to protect him.


I might as well let the cat out of the bag now and tell everyone exactly what went wrong for Irish builders during the Celtic Tiger. Well known architect, James Pike expressed his dissatisfaction late last year at an Architectural Foundation event. James believed the property crash meant that design teams all over Ireland had to be broken up with a huge loss of human resources. But James only described some of what happened. The real destruction of design teams had happened a while before, as the boom was gathering up steam and going into overdrive. It is quite simple and straightforward to me, because I got to see the construction industry from two very different angles. Not everyone did. As Alan Kay would say, point of view is worth 80 IQ points.

I worked on some very large masterplans for industrial lands etc. That was my stock in trade and I was satisfied doing that job. My colleagues included people who had built some of the early fabs for Intel at Leixslip, County Kildare. They had a huge quantity of experience working on larger scale projects that I benefitted from. It was the polar opposite to the Zoe developments approach of building on a tight urban site and getting the most out of it. Zoe knew how to make a profit in producing a huge repetition of small units sold to separate small buyers. No one knew how to do that better than Zoe did.

In my favourite hunting grounds on industrial lands, one sizeable company would build 10,000 sq meters of single storey structure on a site maybe three times that size or more. The same industrial company would occupy that site for decades. Typically they would sell that land as an asset as the town moved out in its direction. The sale of this asset would allow them to build a new factory.

I was used to working with a big size of problem and I knew how to manage it very well. However, as 2006 progressed I saw a sudden change in the project management firm I was working for. I think it was all the Liz O'Kane programs they were watching on the TV. They were highly experienced and talented project managers but they saw amateurs running off with wads of money doing small repetitious stuff on small tiny sites. That is what I call the 'Bertie Ahern factor'. The penny must have dropped for my project management colleagues. They tried to change their whole business model and obtain new clients. They wanted to follow the crowd over to the 'greener pastures'. I thought it was very short sighted, but who was I to judge?

Instead of sticking around, I said I might as well go and work for the real shoe box king. Here is where the story gets interesting. When I worked for Liam Carroll I helped to finish off his last 150 shoe boxes. That was a great experience. But I witnessed something strange happen to Zoe developments. It was like I was having a sense of Deja Vu. The people who really knew how to build big were opting to build tiny little things. But the people at Zoe who really knew how to build small and repetitive, were trying to learn how to build big! It was the most wasteful and non-productive re-organisation of human resources that the Irish construction industry could have undertaken.

I don't know why it happened. But ultimately it proved fatal. David Torpey, one of the captains of the Zoe enterprise (over one hundred directorships to his name) described it as 'competing vigourously'. I will always remember that phrase. Competing vigourously. David seemed to genuinely believe that. In my mind, it was plain ridiculous. David was walking off the map without so much as a swiss army knive. There was no Bear Grylls to watch his back either. That is the primary reason why Irish banks are in hock to the tune of billions now.

The Irish banks funded an excursion that went disasterously wrong. But the Irish banks had no way of knowing that all of their borrowers were about to walk off their own ranches as soon as they obtained finance. The borrower's previous record showed they were outstanding workers and very clever at what they did. Everyone in the construction industry changed their business plan at the same time. It wasn't only Zoe developments. They simply had the biggest tent. During the Celtic Tiger, at the peak of it, every firm of designer and builder saw the far away hills as green-er. Old, tried and trusted business models were flung out of the window and were abandoned.

There was a gold rush on and everyone raced to be at the head of the charge. Banks threw money at people to embark on this nonsensical excursion. Everyone waded in up to their armpits and ended up drowning in quick sand in no time. People who had been perfectly comfortable and safe in their old environment, suddenly found they could not read the landscape they were in. There was no Bear Grylls to rescue us. The rest as they say is history, dry bones and skeletons.

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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby wearnicehats » Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:30 pm

why not change the title of this thread to "The Zoe Love-in" so you can all sit about with rose tinted spectacles reminiscing about covering dublin with a succession of undersized averagely designed (with the exception of the floor beams, obviously) humdrum edifices.

I used to work for a company who won the RIAI Gold Medal. We had great craic and won lots of architectural awards. Problem is we never got paid either. I've never looked back though.
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Re: Liam Carroll: I did it my way?

Postby garethace » Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:35 pm

wearnicehats wrote:why not change the title of this thread to "The Zoe Love-in" so you can all sit about with rose tinted spectacles reminiscing about covering dublin with a succession of undersized averagely designed (with the exception of the floor beams, obviously) humdrum edifices.

I used to work for a company who won the RIAI Gold Medal. We had great craic and won lots of architectural awards. Problem is we never got paid either. I've never looked back though.


What I always say is that Zoe was a company built by engineers. What they did was they designed and created a revolutionary new engine, which they tested and toyed with in isolation for about twenty years. They were so fascinated with their own ingenuity. But they never really knew how to go off and complete the rest of the vehicle in which to mount this beautiful engine they had fine tuned so carefully and all knew so well.

On the other hand, when I work for an architectural consultant it is like here is a beautiful body and chassis with sleek lines and polished paintwork. But where is the engine? There is no doubt, but Zoe proved you could make money by developing the engine on its own. Whereas with the sleek designed body work, you may win a lot of awards, but fewer are willing to foot the bills. I do hope the two cultures of excellence merge in some productive fashion in the future.

Zoe developments was a client desperately looking for the right designers. Architectural consultancy practices were designers desperately looking for the right clients.

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