rmjm’s appointment of sir Fred Goodwin as a special adviser raised eyebrows in the architecture world.
The firm said “Fred the shred” – a close friend of the morrison family, the father-and-son team behind the company – was already familiar with the workings of the business and well placed to offer his expertise to a company looking to emerging markets for its rapid expansion. They may well have been right.
However, sir Fred – although perhaps rmjm’s most controversial appointment – was not the first non-architect to take on a senior role at the company.
Current chief executive Peter morrison started out as a former captain in the British Army and spent a number of years involved in private equity deals. He joined rmjm in 2003 as a non-executive director of the holding company after the sale of his family building firm, morrison Construction.
Three years later, along with his father, sir Fraser morrison, the young enterpreneur bought in to the management of rmjm, which he has recalled as being a “tired architectural firm”, and became chief executive.
It is mr morrison’s business brain, in lieu of a knowledge of building design, which has transformed rmjm from a moderately successful scottish architecture firm into a major global business.
The company was founded in 1956 by modernist architects robert matthew and stirrat johnson-marshall. Now based in Edinburgh’s Bell’s Brae, it has four other major offices it describes as strategic global hubs, in Dubai, New York, London and Hong Kong, as well as numerous smaller offices across the world.
Three years ago, the firm made a transformational acquisition – a $30 million deal which saw it take over New jersey-based Hillier Architecture (itself the 19th largest practice in the world), to form a 1,200-person company headed by morrison senior.