Comment: Under-pressure RMJM needs trophy assets fast
RMJM, the biggest architectural practice in Scotland, famed for its involvement in the Scottish parliament building and for briefly hiring former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin, has been forced to call in the receivers in the latest attempt to keep the wolf from the door.
The business has been restructured by KPMG’s Blair Nimmo, who has closed down three UK subsidiaries but saved 120 jobs that will be folded into the RMJM European division.
Clients are supporting the reshaped business, which will help give it some stability in what is undeniably a difficult time for all those working in the construction sector.
But some insiders and former staff might have been champing at the bit over chief executive Peter Morrison’s statement. “The RMJM team around the world has shown tremendous resilience and loyalty in extremely challenging circumstances over the last number of years,” he gushed, while managing to overlook the real back story of staff walk-outs, unrest over late payment of salaries, job cuts and unpaid bills.
As The Scotsman revealed yesterday, this is about trying to keep the creditors at bay. Bailiffs raided RMJM’s London office after a dispute over an outstanding payment to German firm Muller-BBM.
RMJM was already on a list of 250 delinquent taxpayers in New York and the three subsidiaries put into receivership on Friday have £294,165 in outstanding court judgments against them.
After an £11 million loss in the year to the end of April 2011 it is believed the firm’s trading position has improved.
But among those who left the company were top architects responsible for a number of its biggest projects, including the Falkirk Wheel and the Gazprom tower in St Petersburg. A few new trophy assets would go a long way to help build confidence in the new business and strengthen the balance sheet.
Seat on board must be on talent alone
ATTEMPTS at increasing the number of women in company boardrooms suffered another setback when Cynthia Carroll resigned as chief executive of mining company Anglo American.
Her departure, following that of Marjorie Scardino at Pearson this month, leaves just two females holding the top job at FTSE-100 companies: Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco and Angela Ahrendts at Burberry.
Campaigners for female representation on the boards of Britain’s top companies want it to rise from 16 per cent to 25 per cent and among those flying the flag are Jackie Hunt, chief financial officer at Standard Life, and Jann Brown, managing director at Cairn Energy.
But the trend is in the other direction. Kate Swann of WH Smith, which sits outside the blue chip index, is also leaving, although she is tipped to find another top berth.
Carroll’s departure has once again prompted calls for quotas, something that Carroll herself has spoken against.
Presence on a board should be based on talent alone. In Carroll’s case, shareholders had turned against her, some claiming they were unhappy at the way she was running the company. Her departure was greeted with a 4 per cent rise in the share price.
But there were also allegations of sexism and that some in the tough world of mining just could not cope with having a woman in charge. There are few ways of legislating for such opinions.
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