Staff at Arup’s London headquarters were left with a weekend of unnecessary uncertainty about the future of their offices after a surprise announcement was made saying their building had been sold and that they were moving but to an unknown new address.

Outside of building.
13-17 Fitzroy Street. Arup struggled to tell the whole story about a property deal and relocation plans.

A trilogy of multi-million pound deals involving the global engineering firm and two publicly listed property developers meant that separate embargoed press notices went out several days apart leaving hundreds of employees not knowing what was going on.

On the morning of Friday 24 February Workspace Group plc announced they were buying the freehold of 13-17 Fitzroy Street for £98.5m and that Arup was due to vacate the building from 2020.

An email from Arup’s management confirmed to staff the same day that they had signed an agreement to sell but said they couldn’t say where or when they were intending to move.

Despite Arup priding itself on being run for its staff — “Arup is a wholly independent organisation owned in trust for the benefit of its employees and their dependants” — those very employees were kept waiting and worrying to find out what was happening.

Staff who spoke to Fitzrovia News expressed great concern about where they would be working beyond 2020 and feared it would mean commuting to a different part of London or even beyond.

It was not until four days later that the full story was made known.

On the morning of Tuesday 28 February property developer Derwent London made a public announcement saying it had struck a deal with Arup for them to move in to the former Saatchi & Saatchi building at 80 Charlotte Street — less than a minute’s walk away from Fitzroy Street — when the redevelopment of the site is completed in the second half of 2019.

Derwent also announced that Arup was buying the freehold of its other Fitzroy Street offices in a deal worth £197m.

In a statement to Fitzrovia News, Arup said:

“While we were not in a position to let staff know the full details on Friday last week, a communication was sent to all London based Arup staff on Friday 24th February confirming that the firm has signed an agreement with Workspace Group PLC giving Workspace the option to acquire the freehold of 13 Fitzroy Street and assuring staff that ‘within the next week’ (i.e. this week), we would ‘be in a position to share the details of an exciting additional investment in office space close to our current locale’.”

Arup also issude a public statement on Tuesday and told Fitzrovia News: “Prior to the news piece going live on our website, staff internally have been informed of the wider details of the announcement.”

All ended well in the end. But why couldn’t these three very large companies get together and agree to make a public announcement of the full facts of the separate property deals all at the same time?