RMJM admits cutting 150 staff as exodus of executives worsens
EMBATTLED architecture firm RMJM has admitted it has cut more than 150 jobs worldwide over the past 18 months, while the company has been rocked by an exodus of another 11 of its senior staff.
• RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison is part of the problem, sources say Picture: Ian Rutherford
News of the departure of a string of high profile figures from the company, which worked on the Scottish Parliament building and this year hired disgraced Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin as a consultant, has taken the recent headcount of senior staff leaving the company to 20.
There have also been fresh claims that former banker Sir Fred is controlling the purse-strings of the company - which has admitted cash-flow problems have resulted in wages being paid late over the past year at some of its global offices.
RMJM's Hong Kong office, which saw 80 staff quit in recent weeks, is thought to have lost managing principal Ross Milne, as well as design directors Scott Findley, Ted Givens and Demi Lee, while three big name principals at its US division have also left, plus a director at its Dubai base.
• RMJM: The departed
The company insists it has actually increased headcount in Hong Kong from 180 to 203 in the past nine months. But speaking to Building Design magazine, an unnamed former architect at the firm listed 11 directors or principals around the world who have already left - or are set to leave - to add to the nine names reported last week.
But a RMJM spokesman insisted the company was in good financial shape. "We've made no secret of the fact that in restructuring the business to meet what are very challenging times for the industry worldwide, we've been forced to reduce staff numbers from 979 to 823 over the past 18 months," he admitted. "Although the reductions during this time have inevitably included a number of senior roles, they have all been difficult decisions which were regrettable, painful, but necessary.
"While some markets are still proving challenging, others are more buoyant. Overall, the level of work in the pipeline is now on an upward trend."
A source at the company described the scale of the departures as "totally unprecedented" and said they were primarily down to widespread dissatisfaction with the management of chief executive Peter Morrison and his father, Sir Fraser Morrison, who together appointed Sir Fred in January.
"RMJM has been successful over the past five years, getting good people in and winning big projects which earn a lot of money," the source said. "But now I wonder what the future holds for this wonderful and iconic practice."
A receptionist at RMJM's New York office told The Scotsman that staff were smarting from the departures of senior executives Ron Weston, Phil Palmgreen and Phil Dordai about a month ago. "They've all gone - three of the nicest people you could meet," she said.Mr Weston voiced concerns that he would be "pushed out" of the company two years ago - after Hiller, where he had worked for more than a decade, was bought by RMJM.Principal Gordon Griffin, who has worked at the company since 1972, has also left the US division, where he worked in the Princeton office. It is also thought that Cambridge-based Peter Williams, Europe principal at RMJM, is set to leave, along with his director colleague Murdoch Cameron. Neither was available for comment yesterday.
A separate senior source at the company told The Scotsman that Sir Fred was "essentially financial controller" at RMJM, which was named the fifth largest international practice in 2010.
"He is basically heading up the finance department," said the source. "He has control of all of the company's money - there is no doubt that it is Sir Fred who is holding the purse-strings."
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