The salacious, four-year battle over Zaha Hadid’s estate has finally been settled

Facts As Es-Stated

The salacious, four-year battle over Zaha Hadid’s estate has finally been settled

(Steve Double/Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects)

The majority of Zaha Hadid’s $133 million estate will go to the Zaha Hadid Foundation, a court ruled over Skype this past Friday. The decision comes after Hadid’s estate executors had been embroiled in years of litigious disagreement over control following her death in March 2016.

Claims and subsequent counterclaims have been filed over interpretations of Hadid’s intentions and the future of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). Now, the majority of Hadid’s $133 million assets—comprising sketches, paintings, models, and even properties in Miami and London—will go to the Zaha Hadid Foundation, which will award scholarships supporting Arab women in architectural education and start a museum.

Tensions between the estate’s four executors—Patrik Schumacher, Hadid’s niece Rana Hadid, artist Brian Clarke, and property developer Peter Palumbo—have been brewing for some time. The year Zaha died, Schumacher proposed eliminating all social housing in London, privatizing all public spaces (even streets), and selling off Hyde Park so it could be developed. The other three executors swiftly issued a statement: “Knowing Dame Zaha as well as we did. we can state categorically that she would have been totally opposed to these views and would have disassociated herself from them. We personally also totally disagree with these views.”

In November 2018, Schumacher attempted to remove the three other executors through the courts so he could become the sole executor. Schumacher accused the others of “unjustified hostility” and argued they “undermined [Zaha Hadid Ltd’s (ZHL)] ability to continue as a going concern,” adding that their joint statement had “cast doubt on [his] ability to run ZHL in keeping with the principles adopted in Hadid’s lifetime.”

The court hearing has also resulted in the company shares of ZHL being handed over to a tax-efficient employee benefit trust, chaired by Schumacher. However, executors still could not agree on the board’s structure, with this decision being left to the court.

During proceedings, Schumacher, who is Principal at ZHA and a long-term business partner of Hadid, was accused of financial mismanagement, disregard for corporate governance, and “clandestine relationships” with junior employees. This, in the eyes of the three other executors, meant he was not fit to “be in control of the business” as Zaha Hadid had wished when she died. The three allege that Schumacher also abused veto powers, did not identify conflicts of interest, and had a “lack of commitment to basic principles of corporate governance”.

According to The Guardian, defendants referred to a report which came out this year and found Schumacher had pursued several sexual relationships with junior members of staff. Schumacher reportedly “used his position to push for significant pay rises, promotions and educational opportunities for staff he is in a romantic relationship with that are not based on merit and are in excess of what others are receiving.”

Schumacher was also accused of refusing to cooperate with the investigation as well as trying to stop it, “making it impossible for ZHL properly to investigate his alleged wrongdoing.” As reported by Oliver Wainwright, the ZHA Principal is “understood to be in a relationship with one of the junior staff in question, with whom he has a child.”

Judge Matthew Marsh did not permit Schumacher’s call for the investigation to be vetoed, stating he “would be in a very difficult position with regard to conflicts of interest” if allowed.

Schumacher’s legal team meanwhile argued that the court “should not go down the route of considering and determining all of the factual disputes that have arisen in these proceedings,” and said the allegations against him were “contested and unproven.”

Marsh also inferred that the defendants were “very close to saying that [Schumacher] is not fit to take any fiduciary position at all”. If so, he asked, “how could such a person be a director?” In his ruling on the matter, he was keen to impress that he expressed “no view whatever about that evidence” and made “no findings of fact in relation to it.”

In response to the court hearing, ZHA provided a statement to The Guardian:

“Zaha Hadid Architects is dismayed by the unfounded allegations being made against Patrik Schumacher. The allegations are unproven, contested, and must be considered in the context of a long-running, acrimonious dispute between the trustees of Zaha’s estate. Patrik began working with Zaha Hadid in 1988 and their near 30-year collaboration is the foundation of our success. Under his leadership, we continue to build upon the legacy Zaha and Patrik established together over almost three decades.”

Wainwright, who was witness to proceedings, described Marsh as “Visibly pained to have witnessed the years of costly squabbling.” The judge described the four-year-long legal battle “toxic dispute,” noting how Hadid “didn’t wish for this dispute, which is the real tragedy.”

The lengthy court battle hasn’t been cheap, costing several million dollars. All legal fees will be financed from the estate, meaning less money for the Zaha Hadid Foundation.