Mace executives worried about loss of independence and lack of representative on Atkins board, says source.
Merger talks between Mace and WS Atkins have collapsed, it emerged this week. Tensions over Mace’s independence and the role of its directors are understood to have led to the £12m deal foundering.

It has also been confirmed that rival suitor Citex is out of the running to buy Mace. Talks cooled last month after the two parties failed to agree on the price.

Mace chief executive Bob White would not comment specifically on talks with either firm but said:

“Obviously we’ve been in discussion with several companies – some slightly more intensively than with others. At the moment we have decided not to progress with any.”

Both Mace and Atkins are keen to expand their range of services and the deal was seen by many as tailor-made. However, industry sources say that senior Mace staff were worried that they would lose control of the company, and were concerned that there would be no place for a Mace director on the main Atkins board.

White said: “We are not interested in someone else coming along who wants to control our lives. We don’t feel we need to jump into something. We increasingly value our independence, and so do our clients.”

We increasingly value our independence, as do our clients

Bob White of Mace

White said the firm had been flooded with offers but needed to formulate more carefully what type of partner it was looking for. “We are disillusioned with people coming to knock on our door without well-constructed proposals.”

About one-third of the company is still owned by founder Ian Macpherson, who retired last year. White denied that there was any pressure to find a buyer for his stake.

White revealed that Mace wanted to expand rapidly, but said: ”If that’s not possible through a deal with another company, we will move forward in our own way. By the end of the first quarter we will look at reshaping the company to allow it to grow independently.”

Mace has teamed up with Citex to bid for BT’s £160m facilities management contract, known as Project Jaguar. Observers speculate that merger talks might start again if the Mace-Citex consortium beats off the three others shortlisted.