London-headquartered global architecture and integrated design practice Foster + Partners announced today that it has finalized a “strategic partnership” with Hennick & Company (HennickCo), a family-owned private investment firm based in Toronto. As detailed by Foster + Partners in a statement, the move marks an “important step in the evolution of the practice and will encourage further growth and innovation while maintaining its distinctive culture.”
Translation: A considerable stake of Foster + Partners, which was first established by Lord Norman Foster in 1967 alongside his late wife Wendy, has been sold to HennickCo for an undisclosed amount.
As the firm elaborated in a formal announcement shared with AN:
“The long-term agreement establishes a ‘perpetual partnership model’ that enables the practice to expand beyond its current 180 partners, ensures that the next generation of professionals can become shareholders in the practice, and allows for an orderly succession of existing partners over the long-term. At a general meeting of the shareholders, 100 percent of the partners voted and were unanimous in their support of the partnership with HennickCo.”
Foster and his family will remain the largest shareholders in the practice after the Hennick family, who “acquired a significant interest as part of this transaction.” Foster, who is 86, will also remain executive chairman of his eponymous London practice, which ranks as the largest architectural firm in the United Kingdom with 1,500 employees and 13 satellite studios spread across the globe in cities including New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Dubai, Singapore, and Madrid.
Similarly, present partners in the practice will not be ousted as part of the sale and the existing leadership team will “retain responsibility for day-to-day operations, thereby maintaining the integrity of the practice’s design ethos and providing long-term stability for the professionals who are central to its success, now and in the future.”
What’s more, 24 partners with the firm were promoted to the rank of senior partner as part of the major announcement.
“Towards the end of last year, we started to explore long-term structures for the practice that would respond to the challenges and opportunities of growth and encourage the next generation of leadership and this partnership is the culmination of that process,” said Foster. “We are delighted to be joining forces with the family trust of the Hennick’s, who share our values and the pursuit of excellence. This evolution has the potential to expand the range and depth of our studio – particularly in the fields of sustainability, infrastructure, urbanisation and recycling.”
Foster himself frequently appears on annual rankings of Britain’s wealthiest people and is typically the sole architect each year to do so.
Bradley Hennick, managing director of HennickCo, said that the newly established partnership presents a “unique opportunity to leverage our experience and long-term perspective to strengthen Foster + Partners’ position as the world’s preeminent architecture, infrastructure, engineering, and design consultancy.”
It was not made clear in the announcement if there are future plans to expand the firm’s presence, specifically in North America, now that it is majority-owned by a family of Canadian billionaires. Although Foster + Partners can claim a number of notable projects across the United States (Apple HQ in Cupertino, Manhattan’s Hearst Tower, the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Philadelphia’s Comcast Technology Center, and the Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to name a few) it maintains only two North American studios; one, as mentioned, in New York City and the other in San Francisco.
Per the Architects’ Journal, Foster + Partners’ most recent financials for the fiscal year ending April 30 2021 have not yet been declared, however, the firm reported $370 million (£272 million) in earnings and made a pre-tax profit of nearly $30 million (£22 million) in 2020.