Foster puts Â£500m firm up for sale
THE architect Lord Foster stands to make up to Â£450m by putting the practice he has built up over the past 40 years on the market, write Robert Booth and Sarah Duguid.
Foster told senior staff last week he had called in Catalyst, a corporate finance house, to find bidders for Foster + Partners, one of the most famous names in world architecture.
Foster, 71, designer of landmark buildings such as the Swiss Re tower in London, nicknamed the Gherkin, has no plans to retire and hopes to continue running the practice even after selling.
â€œIt is the 40th anniversary of the firm and Norman has to find a way of ensuring the business remains the market leader,â€ a source close to the practice said. â€œHe might sell but he still wouldnâ€™t leave.â€
It is not certain whether Foster will sell the whole company. However, the source said it was hoped the sale would fetch between Â£300m and Â£500m, of which the bulk would go to Foster, who is believed to own 80-90%, netting him Â£240m- Â£450m. He controls the firm partly through nominees based in the Channel Islands.
Fosterâ€™s current commissions include Beijing airport, widely said to be the worldâ€™s largest construction project. He has become a favourite among developers in Russia, New York, Kazakhstan and London. In addition to landmark buildings such as the Gherkin, Londonâ€™s City Hall and the British Museum Great Court, he designed Stansted airport.
The architect, who was born in Manchester and now lives above his practice in Battersea, south London, also has homes in Switzerland and the south of France. He flies his own jet and helicopter and competes in cross-country skiing marathons.
The source said that, despite his many outside interests, Foster would not be retiring â€œfor many years to comeâ€, even if the company is sold.
In 2004-05, the last year for which accounts were filed, the parent company of Foster + Partners made a profit of Â£2.5m and paid Foster a Â£2.1m salary.