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Monday28 July 2014

RMJM pursued over unpaid Gazprom fees

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Acoustic consultant takes legal action as RMJM crisis spreads to Russia

The crisis gripping RMJM has spread to Russia after news emerged that it is being pursued in the courts over its scheme for Europe’s tallest building, the Gazprom Tower.

German acoustic consultant Müller BBM, which was subcontracted to RMJM on the proposed 403m-high tower in St Petersburg, told BD that it is suing the practice for €100,000 (£88,000) worth of unpaid fees.

The firm said it had reluctantly begun proceedings against the practice, ranked the eighth largest in the world by BD’s 2011 World Architecture 100 survey.

RMJM has now been hit by major crises on three continents in recent months including an exodus of staff in Hong Kong and a $664,000 lawsuit from former employees in the United States.

The Gazprom Tower itself, also known as the Okhta Centre, has been on the drawing board for years and now faces a possible reduction in height and change of location due to protests over its effect on the city skyline.

Jörg Kümmel, managing director of Müller BBM – which is working on the renovation of Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre and the New York state theatre – told BD his firm had been forced to turn to the courts after chasing payment for more than two years.

He said Müller BBM had stopped working on designs for the complex attached to the tower, including a concert and conference hall, six months ago because “we saw no chance to get paid”.

“They [RMJM] said they would immediately pay us and gave us confirmation in writing of the payment and a payment schedule in the middle of the month, every third month in five portions,” Kümmel said.

“The first and second payments were done but after that we were never paid again. I was calling and asking and they said it was to do with the late payment of their client.”

A spokesman for RMJM said it shared “Kümmel’s desire to resolve this issue in a timely and appropriate manner”.

He added that RMJM could not discuss the matter further due to a confidentiality agreement but said the case was a “commercial matter that is related to the quality of delivery”.
This claim was strongly disputed by Kümmel.

“This is a totally new claim,” he said. “I was talking to [RMJM director] Stephen Cutler recently and he could not understand why this matter hadn’t been settled. He said he was very happy with our service.”

This view was backed by former chief designer on the tower Charles Phu, one of a string of senior staff who left RMJM last year.

“Müller BBM’s service was one of the best of all our consultants,” he said. “I worked very closely with them and they did a fantastic and very scientific job. They are one of the best in the world.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • So, the personal witch hunt of RMJM by Will Hurst continues......

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  • A "witch hunt" is justified if it highlights sharp & dubious practice by RMJM: I wonder what odds William Hill would give for them lasting another year with their current management?
    Keep up the good work Will!

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  • Why is it a witch hunt when they do not pay their staff, they have not paid their owe Bob Hillier over $500k after allegedly not paying their rent in Princeton, they have not paid Subs to Auto desk etc etc.....

    This is on top of what is already in the public domain.

    Why anyone would use them is a mystery...

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  • How do you go about interviewing job applicants if your firm is in serious financial difficulty? How much can you tell them about the real position of the firm?

    Such ethical questions needn't bother the RMJM upper management (assuming they can actually find applicants!). None of their Board of Directors is an architect. According to the RIBA website none of their overseas branches are RIBA registered, so the Code of Conduct doesn't run with them.

    Therefore coverage of these stories by the press has value, and the passage above seems well-balanced and relevant.

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  • Keep up the good work? Will Hurst quite obviously has something against RMJM and this is a very one sided story. As for quoting an ex-member of staff well that's surely not reliable!

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  • Interested to see these comments. I do think firms should pay their staff and consultants properly and on time but I certainly don't have anything against RMJM in particular. Indeed I have been asking for a full interview with Peter Morrison for months and have had no success. In this story, I included the firm's full comment and was rebuffed when I asked for them to elaborate.

    Will Hurst
    Associate Editor (News)

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