Wednesday, December 17, 2008

(Sad) Sign of the Times

Last year's acquisition of Hillier Architecture by RMJM was called a merger at the time. It was an acquisition as so many of these M&A deals are. If I've written it once, I've written it a bunch of times: There is very rarely such a thing as a merger. It's called a merger to make the acquired firm feel good, but it's an acquisition.

Want proof? Check out the press release issued earlier this week by RMJM Hillier that announced "the company will now operate under the name RMJM in North America. RMJM Hiller was formed in June 2007 following the merger of RMJM and Hillier Architecture (there's that bogus 'merger' term again). The RMJM Hillier name was used only in North America while the firm, headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, is still known as RMJM throughout the rest of the world. The new name also coincides with a global rebranding for RMJM including a new logo and website."

The sad part of the story for me is that the announcement means the firm will no longer carry the name of Hillier Architecture founder Bob Hillier. I met Bob a few years ago at an industry event and found him to be a knowledgeable, charming fellow. Although the press release quotes Sir Fraser Morrison, CEO, Americas with RMJM as saying, "Bob Hillier has been instrumental to the success of the merger. I want to thank him for his commitment and continued involvement in the firm," the name change is clearly a public distancing from Hillier.

It's all too common these days among A/E firms that acquire other firms to bring them under the corporate umbrella of the acquiring firm, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.



Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that their brand will be preserved after being acquired by a larger firm is a total fool, alas the egos of architects and engineers know no bounds.

Anonymous said...

I developed a similar respect and appreciation for Bob Hillier as a person and a professional.

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