Mystery firms close in on Foster
9 February, 2007
By Angela Monaghan, Vikki Miller
The architect met four private equity firms this week ahead of a senior
However, inviting in the 3i private-equity group will impose a business
discipline on a profession that often regards finance as vulgar. Foster
is to remain as full-time chairman but will now have 3i directors on his
board; there will be a new chief financial officer and Mouzhan Majidi,
the man who designed the new Wembley stadium, becomes chief executive.
"If there's any shift out of this it is that Majidi can take some of the
day-to-day responsibilities and I can spend more time on design," he
says. "I've still got the same passion for design."
He clearly prefers the drawing board to the spreadsheet. Asked to say if
he is a designer or businessman, Foster, a snappy dresser with a face
like a sculpted Roman bust, immediately snaps: "I'm a designer." He says
balancing creativity and commerce is an interesting challenge.
"The way we've been able to reconcile creativity with getting buildings
built is the test of time, and satisfying clients so that they come back
for more," he says.
His only commercial experience before setting up his architectural
practice - indeed his only job - was as a 16-year-old school-leaver in
Manchester city council's treasury department. He had been born into a
working-class family in the city and says: "Nobody in our family or in
the district had been to university."