Firm loses work on $40 million deals
The problems engulfing RMJM intensified this week after a prestigious university in the US terminated its contract with the firm because of concerns over the architect’s finances and the number of people leaving.
RMJM had been designing a sports college and health building for West Virginia University as part of a wider $200 million scheme to expand a campus in Morgantown.
But this week the university’s associate general counsel Rossi Wiles confirmed to BD that it was no longer working with the firm, and is looking for a replacement.
“We terminated our contractual relationship with them two weeks ago,” said Wiles.
He declined to go into detail but admitted the number of people leaving the firm’s US office in New York and its problems paying staff on time — many are owed up to two months’ salary — “have had a bearing on the decision”.
It is the first time that a client’s concerns about how RMJM has been operating have been made public.
The university awarded the work to the practice when its US office went under the name of Hillier. Its decision to terminate the contract is thought to have been triggered by the departure earlier this month of Roger Klein, the design principal in charge of the project.
Klein was unavailable to comment but one source said the university had decided to pay consultants directly after RMJM was late paying them on the design development phase.
“RMJM was late paying their consultants and then the scheme started to get delayed,” the source said. “The university decided to make the payments itself for work on the construction documents.”
RMJM’s US office has been hit by a series of high-profile departures in recent weeks, while staff have been angered by broken promises about when wages will be paid. Blame has been laid at the door of commercial director Richard Bailes, the brother-in-law of chief executive Peter Morrison.
One said: “He told us it would be the beginning of the year, then the middle of February and now we’ve been told the end of March. No one has any confidence in what he says anymore.”
RMJM declined to comment.
RMJM’s Hong Kong studio is facing a £100,000 legal claim over unpaid wages to current and former staff.
BD’s sister title Building reports that 15 people are making the claim, which is due to be heard by Hong Kong’s Labour Tribunal next month.
A claim form, seen by Building, shows claims ranging from £1,460 to £23,870 ranging across wages, severance, annual leave pay and expenses.
Hong Kong law states that wages must be paid within seven days, meaning RMJM could be ordered to pay the amount in full.
A spokesman for RMJM said: “We’re confident these issues will be resolved quickly. It’s a matter of profound regret when salaries are not paid on time but we take all possible steps to keep such delays to an absolute minimum.”
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