SBD/August 19, 2014/Facilities

HOK Acquires 360 Architecture For Undisclosed Price, Marking Its Return To Sports Design

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Hellmuth (l) and Schrock (r) expect the merger to be finalized by October
HOK has acquired 360 Architecture, designer of new facilities for the Falcons, Oilers, Earthquakes and Red Wings, among other major league projects. The purchase price was not disclosed. Both companies are privately held. HOK has 1,600 employees working in 23 cities globally and reported $400M in gross fees in '13, according to the company’s website. This year, it is ranked No. 2 on Engineering News & Record’s list of the top international design firms. The merger marks the return to the world of sports design for HOK. 360 Architecture, meanwhile, has seen significant growth since the company formed 10 years ago by combining two smaller K.C. design firms. 360 now employs 200 people and generated $30M in gross fees last year, said firm co-Founder & Senior Principal Brad Schrock. Officials from both firms expect the deal to close in late October. The 360 Architecture name will go away after a brief transition period but the company will keep its offices intact in K.C., Columbus and S.F., where Schrock is based. “We’re going to be all-in HOK,” Schrock said. “We’re absolutely on board and excited for that to happen.” Driving the merger for 360 was the opportunity to continue growing the company in its second decade, Schrock said. The company has been on a great roll of late. In addition to the four new NFL and NHL buildings it is designing, 360 recently won jobs to renovate major league arenas for the Spurs and Hurricanes. In the college space, 360 is designing a $400M renovation of Notre Dame Stadium as well as a master plan for Northwestern sports facilities, among other projects.

SEVERAL MONTHS IN THE WORKS: About two months ago, HOK contacted 360 about the potential merger, and it did not take long for 360’s six senior principals to agree on signing a deal with the larger firm considering their strategy for expanding their business. “We’ve been thinking about doing something like this,” Schrock said. “Along came a phone call from these guys at HOK that we know and respect. From the moment we met, we really hit it off. Our values are similar, our philosophy on how we do business is similar, the cultures in which we have kind of promoted and grown in are very similar. It made the balance of the discussion really easy and enjoyable.” The acquisition brings Schrock and fellow 360 co-Founder & Senior Principal George Heinlein back full circle with HOK. Both architects essentially started their careers at HOK in the '80s designing arenas and stadiums before leaving the company in '95 to launch Heinlein Schrock Stearns. In '04, Heinlein Schrock Stearns merged with CDFM2 to form 360 Architecture. Meanwhile, HOK beginning in '83 was among the pioneers in sports venue design before a group of six principals broke off in '09 and formed a separate company, in K.C., rebranding themselves as Populous. At the time of the separation five years ago, HOK signed a non-compete clause preventing it from competing against Populous for sports projects. The agreement expired at the start of '14, allowing HOK to re-enter the sports practice, confirmed Bill Hellmuth, HOK’s Washington-based President & Senior Design principal. Hellmuth’s late uncle, George Hellmuth, was one of the founders of HOK in '55. “HOK practices in many different building types ... (and) to have sport as part of our offerings is a natural for us,” Hellmuth said. “In the past, we had sport. They’re big, civic, important complex projects which is sort of our sweet spot.” The merger is the second big alliance in sports facility development in recent weeks. Last month, AECOM bought Hunt Construction, bringing together the world’s largest architectural services firm and North America’s top sports builder.
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