American architect instigates reshuffle but denies it is over-concerned about low profitability

HOK has moved a principal from its New York office to run the headquarters of HOK International in London.

The move is part of a management reshuffle that casts doubt on the future role of Ralph Courtenay, the present head of the US architect’s UK operation.

Sam Spata is expected to take up his role in London at the start of October. His title is operations director and it is understood he will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the London office. This had been Courtenay’s remit.

It is understood the move is intended to improve profitability at HOK’s UK operation, which has a turnover of about £30m.

HOK was disappointed to lose out to Hopkins Architects on the design of the Dubai World Trade Center last month.

Spata has briefed the London staff about his and Courtenay’s responsibilities, but one insider said they were no clearer after it. Courtenay has been absent from the office while these changes have been under way.

HOK told staff it would not be publicising the changes.

Larry Malcic, design director in the London office, said the London office would be divided between six directors; Courtenay had been seen as the effective managing director of the practice.

Malcic said Courtenay’s role was director of the corporate group, and that he was on a level with the other five executives.

Richard Spencer, who was responsible for operations and aviation, is now responsible solely for aviation. Business manager Robert Lewinton has left the company.

Malcic denied that Spata was parachuted in to increase profit. He said: “I wouldn’t say we had any significant problems in terms of fees.”

• HOK Sport, which operates separately from HOK International, is expected to bid for the Olympic stadium in joint venture with Sir Robert McAlpine.