Foster may sell architects firm for £500m

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The Independent Online

Lord Foster, one of the most respected names in architecture, is considering selling his practice for up to £500m.

The architect is understood to have been in negotiations for several months with a number of investors over the potential sale of Foster + Partners, which is famous for such iconic projects as the Swiss Re tower, better known as "The Gherkin", in London.

Lord Foster, 71, has called in the corporate finance house Catalyst to find bidders for the firm.

It is understood he plans to stay involved with the company he has built up over 40 years and which employs 600 architects and designers, even after a sale.

"He may sell the firm but he is unlikely to leave," one City source said. "He is looking at his options."

The company is likely to fetch between £300m and £500m, the majority of which will go to Lord Foster, who owns 80 to 90 per cent of the business.

His projects include London's City Hall and the British Museum Great Court, the Reichstag in Berlin, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong. Beijing airport, widely said to be the world's largest construction project, is one of Foster's current commissions, along with the Government's city academies. It has also diversified into new sectors, such as hotels.

The thrice-married architect, who was born in Manchester and now lives above his practice in Battersea, south London, has homes in Switzerland and the south of France.

In 2004-05, the last year for which accounts were filed, the parent company of Foster + Partners made a profit of £2.5m and paid Foster a £2.1m salary.