Will Alsop looked set to sell his business to acquisition-hungry architect SMC Group this week after 30 years in private practice.
The companies were in talks over a deal in which Alsop Design would become a subsidiary of SMC.
A source at SMC said a deal was likely to go ahead and that SMC chief executive Stewart McColl hoped to acquire 100% of Alsop, currently 40%-owned by venture capitalist R Capital.
R Capital woud be the most likely obstacle to a deal.
The source said that McColl wanted Alsop and his team to transfer, a move that would enhance SMC's design credibility. Alsop would sell his 60% share, though he would take a stake in SMC.
Discussions are understood to be continuing over the price but it is thought to be about £1.7m. In the past SMC has offered 50% cash and 50% shares to firms it has acquired.
The advantage of the deal for Alsop would be that McColl would get on with the management side of the business while he and his team would be free to work on creative development.
Alsop was unavailable for comment but his managing partner Reg Marsh said: "Will is an integral part of any deal. Will is Alsop Design, so he will be going across. They are currently talking about his role."
Another Alsop source said: "We haven't been told we will be moving offices or anything like that. We're told that nothing will change because of it."
The deal is an unlikely marriage between two contrasting firms. Alsop is a high-profile, design-led practice. It went into administration in October 2004 but despite this has scored some successes in the past year.
McColl is a lesser-known, ambitious businessman who floated SMC in June 2005 to fund more acquisitions as part of an international growth strategy. McColl declined to comment but he did confirm the talks in a statement on Monday.
Alsop: The highs and the lows
Will Alsop is perhaps best known for Peckham Library in south-east London, for which his practice Alsop and Stormer won the Stirling Prize in 2000.
In the same year Alsop set out on his own, establishing Alsop Architects, and in 2002 won what he thought would be the best commission of his career –
a landmark project for Liverpool’s pierside, dubbed the Fourth Grace.
However, in 2004 Alsop’s design was scrapped by regeneration agency Liverpool Vision – one of three major project cancellations that contributed to the practice being forced into financial receivership. In October 2004, the directors sold 40% of the practice to R Capital and the firm has since met with some success.