Multiplex slips in the back door at Wembley

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The Independent Online

Construction company Bovis Lend Lease and Australian rival Multiplex have become embroiled in a bitter feud over the controversial £475m redevelopment of Wembley Stadium.

Construction company Bovis Lend Lease and Australian rival Multiplex have become embroiled in a bitter feud over the controversial £475m redevelopment of Wembley Stadium.

Until last week, Bovis and Multiplex were the joint venture preferred bidders to revamp the home of English football.

But the pair were booted off the project following a row over the cost of construction work, only for Multiplex to return under its own steam just days later along with a cheaper bid.

Bovis's lawyers are now studying their contractual agreements to establish whether they can recoup some of their bidding costs from their erstwhile partners and whether they have the right to compensation.

Multiplex declined to comment on the row, and a spokeswoman said: "Mutiplex Construction UK has a policy of respecting client confidentiality with regard to the details of all their projects."

Earlier, Wembley National Stadium chairman, Ken Bates, revealed that Bovis Multiplex originally submitted a bid of £390m to redevelop the stadium, which was later scaled back to £347m.

He said: "It was a sum not acceptable to us. The joint venture was led by Bovis.

"Once we terminated our appointment of Bovis Mutiplex, we were free to deal with any other party."

Mutiplex will need to finish the project in time for the 2004 FA Cup final, which is a year later than originally planned.

Mr Bates also revealed that Wembley National Stadium will not have to pay for any cost overruns if the project finishes late, but will only take 20 per cent of any savings if the project finishes early.

The award of the contract to Multiplex for £326.5m has raised serious doubts among industry commentators that the Australian firm can turn a profit on the project which must be completed to a tight construction schedule.

David Rogers of the trade journal Construction News, said: "You have to bear in mind that Mutiplex is doing this for around £60m cheaper than it originally bargained for... it makes it difficult to see how it can make much out of it."

Wembley spokesman Chris Palmer refused to comment on the row, saying: "This is a matter for Bovis and Multiplex.

"We went to the market and looked at various bids and we selected one with a good price."

Multiplex is a recent arrival to the UK construction industry, opening its first office in July this year, having completed work on the £260m Olympic stadium in Sydney.

Its only other major project is the West Stand extension at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium - where Ken Bates is also chairman.

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