Visionaries. Master plan for 2012 London Olympic facilities is one of EDAW’s specialties.

Designer AECOM Technology Corp. is acquiring EDAW Inc., one of the largest U.S. planning and landscape architecture firms. The Los Angeles designer is finishing final details of a deal that will make EDAW part of its empire and give the parent a foothold in the fast-growing global market for project master planning.

Neither the purchase price nor other financial details were released, but one official says the deal involves a combination of cash and stock. The deal will elevate San Francisco-based EDAW’s global platform and allow more of its 1,200 employees to buy shares of the larger combined firm, says Joseph E. Brown, EDAW president and CEO. He says the deal has been "in the works" for nine months.

Brown

EDAW officials will not identify which other firms and equity investors approached them, but Brown says AECOM will allow the planning firm to keep its autonomy. AECOM is the industry’s third largest design firm, reporting nearly $2.1 billion in global design revenue in 2004. EDAW ranks 67th on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms list, reporting $137.5 million in similar revenue.

Officials say both company boards have approved the deal and have shared it with employees. But EDAW’s shareholders have not voted on the transaction, says a spokeswoman.

One senior AECOM official says the firm currently lacks a strong planning and urban design function. "EDAW has that in a big way," he says, with strong credentials in Australia, the U.K and China. "Our two global footprints match, and EDAW offers an early look into projects."

EDAW has advised London development officials since 2003 on planning for the 2012 Olympic games, which the city won this summer. The firm now leads a team awaiting a decision by next month on its proposal for implementing the actual master plan. EDAW also is involved in planning for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, says Brown. He will join AECOM’s executive board when the deal is completed.

AECOM has grown and diversified through acquisition in recent years. This summer, it bought environmental engineer ENSR International, Westford, Mass., and last month purchased most assets of Cleveland-based contractor The Austin Co. following that firm’s bankruptcy filing. That boosts AECOM’s market share in design-build services.