Paul Morrell adds some staff and clients might drift away because of £35m deal

Former Davis Langdon senior partner Paul Morrell has said Alinea’s takeover by Turner & Townsend is part and parcel of business, likening the deal to “a constant process of reinvention”.

Morrell, who led the consultant from 1999 to 2007, told Building “nobody died” as a result of the £35m acquisition which was announced by T&T last week.

The deal has brought to an end the independence of the 10-year-old business, which emerged in May 2013 after the takeover of Davis Langdon by US giant Aecom three years earlier.


Paul Morrell said successful businesses have to ‘go through a constant process of reinvention’

But Morrell said: “It is a compliment to a business when people express sadness or disappointment when it goes through a major change. But all businesses must go through a constant process of reinvention in response to shifting pressures and priorities – whether these relate to major investment required to take the business to the next level, over-reliance on a narrow market, a desire to spread ownership or maybe just owners looking for an exit.”

T&T, which last year posted an improved income of £844m, began discussions about buying Alinea just weeks after its own deal with CBRE, which saw the US firm take a 60% stake in the business, broke in summer 2021.

>> Also read: Why Alinea turned its back on independence and signed up with T&T

>> A decade of Alinea: from birth to buyout

>> Turner and Townsend acquires Alinea

Building understands T&T has paid between £25m and £35m for the 110-strong firm, which is predicted to have a turnover of £20m for the year to April and earnings of around £5m.

Morrell admitted some of Alinea’s staff might be tempted to look for new jobs but added: “This is not a tragedy. Nobody dies in the process but they will find themselves in a new dynamic. Those who like the new dynamic, whether they are staff or clients, will move with the organisation, and those who don’t will move to something more suited to their tastes. This is what happened with Davis Langdon – a cause of sadness to some of us but the world keeps turning.”

One major client, who asked not to be named, said he had been caught on the hop by the news. “I was taken by surprise. T&T is a great business but Alinea will lose their culture over time which would be a shame. I suspect a number of the non-equity partners may not be too happy.”

Luke Wainwright, a director with CO-RE, which is working with Alinea on the 120 Fleet Street office scheme Lendlease is set to build, and another Lendlease job, the 72 Upper Ground mixed-use scheme on London’s Southbank, which has been called in for a planning inquiry, said: “For T&T there is synergy. Alinea is dominating markets they’re not really in. [The merger] gives Alinea firepower and it gives T&T access to alternative markets.”

The enlarged business will be run by Alinea co-founder Iain Parker who told Building last week the deal “propel[s] our business forward by a decade overnight in terms of what we’re trying to do”.

But the boss of another firm added: “I feel they’ve abandoned us a bit, the brotherhood of independents. I don’t buy the whole thing that they’re [Alinea] supercharged by the whole deal. If someone puts a lot of money in front of you might start questioning well-worn mantras about polishing the family silver and passing it on.”