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October 2005.

It is 11am on a cold autumn morning in the offices of Building, when
a call comes in from Ashley Muldoon, Multiplex's project director on Wembley:
"G'day mate - I'm returning your call to find out what bullshit stories you're writing
this week," he says sharply with his easily distinguishable Australian twang.
The conversation, like the two dozen before it, follows a familiar pattern - a quickfire, heated, telephone duel in which allegations of site problems are quickly batted
away with fierce denials by Muldoon before he eventually loses his patience and
concludes: "No. You need to listen to me, mate: the stadium is on time and will be
ready for May no matter what. And if everyone around us is not ready, then there
will be an empty stadium sitting at Wembley come cup final day."
The relationship between Muldoon and the journalists has been built up over a
number of months. Since the stocky, thirtysomething, self-styled hard man arrived
from Australia over two years ago, Building has got to know him well. Journalists
have been on numerous site visits with him, have listened to progress updates and
have reported dozens of stories about the dramas unfolding on the site - which
included everything from sniper threats to accidents to bust-ups with
subcontractors and unions.
What was most noticeable up until Christmas last year was Multiplex's defiant
attitude - in particular Muldoon and Multiplex's refusal to acknowledge that the
project has ever been in trouble. Last summer Muldoon even posed for a Building
cover shoot with Noel Henderson, Multiplex's then chief executive, before declaring
that the stadium would be ready before Christmas. This assertion was made in a
half-completed stadium structure.
When Christmas came, it did not bring a completed stadium; it brought a statement
from Multiplex to the Australian stock exchange that there was "a material risk" the
ground would not be ready in time for the cup final. And it was around this time that
the intimate telephone conversations with Ashley Muldoon began to grow rarer.
Today the Wembley stadium project is the most high profile construction fiasco in a
generation. Multiplex is at least 10 months behind schedule, has fallen out with its
subcontractors, unions and client and could lose up to £180m in the process. Now
the drama is about to move from the stadium to the High Court, where Multiplex
and Cleveland Bridge, its sacked steel subcontractor, are about to litigate their
This case, which begins on Tuesday, will place UK Construction Plc under the
spotlight of the world at the same time that the Olympic Development Authority is
finalising plans for the Olympic village in east London, one of the most important
projects in London.

County Durham. The contractor claims that WNSL ordered up to 600 design changes to the project. but Multiplex was unhappy with how quickly it did so. which it is accusing of causing delays to the stadium. What issues will the legal arguments centre upon? What was the course of events behind the Wembley fiasco? And what will it mean to the reputation of UK Construction Plc? Building investigates the events that have shaped the Wembley saga … Building’s headlines in the coverage of the Wembley saga show how the project went from hopeful to problematic to desperate Arch enemies: The bust-up with steel subcontractor Cleveland Bridge The structure of Wembley stadium is dominated by its 1750 tonne. and therefore the key site relationship was that between Multiplex and the company building it. It built and erected the arch. Whatever the outcome of the court cases.Furthermore. 133 m high arch. On the face of it. we can be sure that m'learned friends will benefit . Cleveland Bridge UK. Multiplex is now squaring up to the client. Multiplex .nobody expects the legal costs to come in under £10m. Wembley National Stadium Ltd. and how much it was paying for the work. So in July 2004. the story of Cleveland Bridge's involvement at Wembley is a simple one. But other questions are less clear. a steel specialist based in Darlington. The fabrication and erection of the arch was the key works package.

" Despite this. when it required PC Harrington to re-pour the concrete. the project never recovered from the disruption caused by the failure of this relationship. However. Multiplex deducted £1. Instead. has become the central dispute between the parties. when the two attempted to resolve a series of disputes over cost overruns by signing a revaluation of Cleveland Bridge's work. gave both parties a word of warning. the attention will be on Muldoon. At the same time. Cleveland Bridge alleges that Multiplex reneged on the deal. Multiplex claims the figure was only agreed "for cash flow" and had been expressly subject to "clawback". Mr Justice Jackson. Cleveland Bridge is claiming that Multiplex revalued its work up to that date at £32. it says it became aware of the fault in March 2004. it says Multiplex knew the wrong type of concrete was being used and "failed to issue any instruction to Harrington to use C60 grade concrete".sacked Cleveland Bridge and recruited Dutch contractor Hollandia to finish off the arch and roof structure at a premium rate. Next week's legal case is expected to hinge on a series of events that have already been referred to in legal claims and counterclaims.25m for lifting the arch. In a pre-trial hearing in March. the Football Association lost its showpiece May cup final. this agreement. with consequent cost overruns. the animosity between the two parties means there is strong potential for emotional speeches from the witness stand. which was designed to draw a line under previous squabbles. . Multiplex alleged that Cleveland Bridge had failed to fabricate within specified tolerances. the head of the Technology and Construction Court. The disagreements between it and Cleveland Bridge began as far back as 15 February 2004. and Multiplex stands to lose millions of pounds in penalties. However. It claims it was entitled to an extension of time because the raising the arch was "delayed by the failure of Multiplex's subcontractor PC Harrington to use the correct grade of concrete in the arch foundations". Furthermore. As a result. and that this resulted in an eight-week delay to the lifting. responsibility for the delay of the arch lies with Multiplex.9m. cost overruns and goodwill. It denies that the concrete repairs delayed the lifting of the arch. Multiplex refused to pay Cleveland Bridge £1. it cited a valuation of £23. He said: "May I tactfully suggest that we focus on the issues that matter.6m. not on colour. when Multiplex made the payment in July. As far as Cleveland Bridge is concerned. Although Multiplex admits that the wrong type of concrete was used.6m as "costs incurred due to member misalignment" and £4.1m in respect of "inefficient site works" and "unreasonable and unsubstantiated costs" incurred between February and June 2004. In particular. As events were to show.

The outcome of the case may hinge on which of these claims is accepted by the court. Cleveland Bridge alleges that as early as January 2004 Multiplex was operating the "Armageddon Plan". Cleveland Bridge was forced to make 200 staff redundant and within days indicated that it would take legal action against Multiplex. who has since left the firm. The Darlington based steel subcontractor was given 28 days to remove all of its staff and plant from the north London site and its £55m steel contract terminated following concerns over their progress. Cleveland Bridge is expected to field former chief executive Roddy Grant. was parachuted onto the site immediately to finish off the project. Stuart Kersley. it is claimed. As evidence. Dutch steel firm Hollandia. Multiplex alleges that the plan was drawn up in May because Cleveland Bridge realised that it had dramatically overspent its budget on Wembley. who had been runner up to Cleveland Bridge when the contract was awarded. ex-finance director James Child. Cleveland Bridge. Armageddon vs Trafalgar Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge have accused each other of underhand strategies even before the disputes over payment reached a head. .who was quoted by the Cleveland Bridge lawyer as describing the subcontractor as a "shower". Richard Thomas and engineer Andy Hall. its construction managing director Matt Stagg. Other witnesses are understood to include. Chris Ong and site manager David Watkins. for Multiplex. was intended to destroy the steel specialist by hitting it with a large claim for defective work and delay so it would "fall over under the pressure". managing director Brian Rogan. The first sign that Wembley would not be ready in time emerged after the firm building its arch. This. Cleveland Bridge cites the now-notorious Multiplex email from Matt Stagg to Ashley Muldoon: "Plan B: CBUK fixed and fuck them later?" Multiplex claims in reply that Cleveland Bridge had devised "Project Trafalgar": a plan to stop work on the pretext that Multiplex had repudiated its contract. left the site following a row with Multiplex in July 2004.

a whole raft of litigation and another high-profile British project battering our industry's reputation. This is Multiplex's fiasco. putting the performance of Multiplex to one side. It's true that the stadium will eventually look fantastic. consultants and other key subcontractors also came under intense pressure and all will be subject to forensic examnation. but denies that this caused grave problems. but maintains that none affected the stadium's main steel superstructure. the role of WNSL and the FA will inevitably be subject to scrutiny. One senior industry source says that although the FA was shrewd in its original contract negotiations. This. but at what cost? One site death. which forced it to adjust its work programme and thereby increase costs. and has to come to terms with the fact that it is ultimately responsible. the source maintains. The Mott consortium declined to comment on the case. A senior source at the FA admits that there were some changes to the project. shows that the contractor is to blame for the delays. Cleveland Bridge alleges in its claim that as early as 2003 there were "serious problems arising from late and incomplete design by the civil and structural engineer Mott Stadium Consortium and delays in providing design information". As the reference to Mott MacDonald indicates." However. . Wars of words: Multiplex vs everybody else Two weeks ago it emerged that Multiplex has opened up a new front in its legal war ." the source says. Multiplex now claims those overruns were partly the result of nearly 600 design changes ordered by WNSL. it should acknowledge some culpability for the project's failure.One of Cleveland Bridge's underlying claims is that the stadium was not designed properly. and that as a result the FA would not pay for any cost overruns.this time against its client. the battle with Cleveland Bridge is likely to be only the beginning of Multiplex's court appearances in the next year or two. and that Multiplex is still working on it two months after the project's completion deadline. but nobody is coming out of this looking good. The firm's relationships with its client. "They told us that the project would be substantially complete by the end of June and then they handed us a construction programme that said it would be finished by September. Wembley National Stadium Ltd. "The contractor is late. Throughout this debacle. The source says: "The FA employed a good man in Mike Jeffries [former Atkins chairman] to oversee this project as chairman of WNSL. Multiplex admits there was late and incomplete design by MSC. the client has steadfastly maintained that it had a fixed-price contract.

such as steelwork. Meanwhile. and weeks. PC Harrington. MJN Colston. The FA source says: "What has become clear. are also likely to play some part in any legal process. part of Cleveland Bridge's case is that the Mott Stadium Consortium . One senior subcontractor source said this week that subcontractors had been granted time extensions but that firms had been affected by the need to tie up resources for four months longer than expected. with handover by the end of September. is it? Especially on such a landmark project.lodged claims worth a total of £20m last summer. though. brought by shareholders who claim that Multiplex's management misled them over the progress of the project. WNSL rejected all responsibility for site problems." The full extent of the client's role in the affair may have its days. You have to consider their reasoning for doing this. referring Building to a statement it made on 31 March that said Multiplex had told them the stadium would be substantially completed by the end of June. Connell Wagner and Sinclair Knight Merz . This information should prove crucial in the event of legal proceedings and a source at the firm described its involvement as "continuing". in court. a partner in HOK.Phoenix Electrical. a director of Foster. industrial relations and sewage issues (see below). Franklin + Andrews. Building understands that the original cost consultant. and Mouzhan Majidi. The project's architects. Five of Multiplex's subcontractors . Foster and Partners and HOK both referred Building to WNSL. especially given the litigation they face in Australia.provided late and incomplete designs. . Permasteelisa and Bison Concrete . but the enticing prospect of Norman Foster himself taking a turn at the stand cannot be ruled out. Cleveland Bridge says this should have entitled them to an extension of one year. demanding best practice in partnership with the contractor? It's just not good enough. As mentioned above.comprising engineering consultants Mott MacDonald. a spokesperson reiterated the FA's position. The contractor is on the receiving end of a class action in the Australian courts. he FA's response is that it and WNSL have become embroiled in the wider problems of the Multiplex group. F+A has its own version of the "little black book" that contains details of every design change that has occurred on the project. are the main men here. The common contention was that they should be granted extensions of time and extra costs owing to the disruption caused by the departure of Cleveland Bridge."Whatever happened to the client being the innovator. Foster and Partners and HOK Sport. and that claims were likely for that reason. other main players involved in the design of the stadium could be facing cross examination. could be key witness. is that Multiplex have stated that they have claims against us as a client when we haven't received any such claim. Rod Sheard." When Building contacted the client WNSL.

it is understood that Phoenix Electrical has been granted time and financial concessions from Multiplex to allow it to cope with design and programme changes. Building understands that these disputes recently came to a head in a legal dispute between the T&G and Multiplex over the role of Melvyn Moss. and they know it. Multiplex was forced to reach an 11th-hour agreement with Hollandia and labour agency Fast Track to prevent 200 steelworkers stopping work on the roof.but in general they are gentlemen.One thing that is never going to happen. "In an organisation with that amount of people. "I don't know why they would come after us. That was a turning point in relations between Multiplex and the unions. They are not all nice guys . On 23 January 2004. The result was a continual struggle over the safety of the works. killing Patrick O'Sullivan. and security installation specialist AR Security was forced to leave the site in January on the grounds that it did not have enough money to carry on. and as a result relations between T&G and Multiplex broke down. Moss refuses to comment on the issue. who was dismissed after a row with Multiplex's management. according to the subcontractor. I've got about £2 in my pocket and that's it. the problem with Multiplex has been that it is so defensive. blaming Wembley for its demise. managing director of Phoenix Electrical. the . The case centred on whether the union should have a role on the site at all." Another subcontractor." Death of a concrete worker and other site disasters The aggravation for Multiplex on Wembley extends beyond its supply chain. After that occurred. attempts by the contractor to accelerate the works met resistance from the unions. you do have a cross-section of different animals. The cash flow problems among the supply chain are so great that Multiplex has had to step in to ensure its remaining subcontractors stay the course. an employee of concrete contractor PC Harrington. Multiplex offered to employ the workforce directly. a crane lifting a working platform collapsed. who were concerned with the causes of O'Sullivan's death ." Plumbing contractor SGD has already gone into administration. The trade unions on the site also have a story to tell about the way the main contractor has handled site issues. is less laudatory.some of them aren't .which is still an open case for the police and the Health and Safety Executive. "The claims on this site with subcontractors have gone nuclear. For example. says Multiplex has always been reasonable with him and his firm despite the project's problems. At one stage. one of their convenors on the site. Brian Ingram. who does not want to be named for legal reasons. but Bob Blackman. is Multiplex recovering money from contractors further down the supply chain. and last month. we've got nothing to give them.

Contractor PC Harrington is working to fix the problem. a regional secretary at rival union UCATT. is a little more reserved in his take on Multiplex. says: "We've found Multiplex an extremely difficult company to work with. our peak workforce has been in the order of 3500 men and women. having built up a relationship with the contractor at Wembley and other projects. like Multiplex. positive relationships with the various trade unions representing the workers on our sites and we expect this to continue. as well as deepening our supply chain in the UK. revealed in Building in February. "Multiplex is committed to its people and to building firm relationships with our subcontractors." he says." Jerry Swayne. "Ashley Muldoon is a forceful character but we've always managed to get along. These individuals. and is also understood to be working to tackle minor subsidence on the south side of the stadium. such as the White City retail development in west London. Likewise. and indeed do enjoy. was finally admitted by Multiplex three weeks ago in a statement to the Australian stock exchange. particularly at a site level on any of our projects both in the UK and internationally. which brings with it significant amount of rumour and hearsay. who would not be drawn on Multiplex's relations with other unions on the site. "We've always had a good relationship with Multiplex and they've kept us informed of developments on the site. A Multiplex spokesperson had this to say: "The job of building Wembley has without doubt attracted national attention. "We hear they can be taskmasters with subcontractors but maybe you have to be when you're losing that much money on a project and it's that far behind. On site. They tend to have a very hostile attitude towards trade union representatives that have a difference of opinion with them. when the firm said that defects had been found in about 25 locations along the project’s 12 km of sewerage. we are also committed to. says Multiplex's relations with subcontractors are more strained. The problem. would know that ." Swayne.national officer at the T&G. anyone who has been involved with our company. have been committed to delivering England with its finest-ever football stadium and. Multiplex is being forced to carry out remedial works on the Wembley drainage system after it emerged that buckled pipes could cause the stadium to flood with sewage. as the stadium moves closer to completion. "In terms of our health and safety standards. the nation will soon see for itself just how much effort the Wembley team has employed to deliver a world class product.

" One managing director of a major contractor agrees.Multiplex adheres to strict international guidelines and has rigorous health and safety checks and measures to ensure these standards are met. said Wembley was becoming a joke for foreign clients. "I think it's a bit unfortunate the way that UK construction is being portrayed. Inevitably. Portcullis House. Multiplex and the HSE are currently investigating the cause of the incident." he says. And not just in Britain. the Olympics can be delivered on time and on budget. the Scottish parliament. English projects don't finish on time. Subcontractor PC Harrington is currently undertaking remedial works to 25 separate locations in the system. "I think for the bigger jobs there'll be a question mark on the UK's ability to deliver big projects to a set timescale and a set price.000." Richard Hall. "I was speaking to a foreign client the other day and he said. The next on-site crisis was the revelation in mid-February this year that defective pipework in the 12 km long drainage system could cause the stadium to flood with sewage." he says. Wembley's legacy: Good for football. one project that goes wrong attracts more attention than 10 that go right. a senior partner with Faithful & Gould. but 3000 workers were sent home on full pay." The death of Patrick O'Sullivan and the ensuing union rows were far from the only disasters to befall Wembley since construction started. And the failure has raised questions about the competence of the wider industry. Geoff Wright. "It's causing quite a lot of difficulty. and schemes such as the British Library. says that although Wembley has damaged the image of the industry. And of course a large percentage of the population of Britain is drawing a parallel with the 2012 Olympic Games. As it is. they have become permanently incorporated into the narrative of how a construction team failed to complete the most important cultural project in Britain. costing the project at least £600. "What is vital for the Olympics is to establish a procurement route where you establish certainty and risk and who's the best person to hold that risk. And then site workers on 20 March were put in danger when a 50 tonne steel rafter fell from its temporary position." he says. In February last year the contractor received threats that crane operators would be shot by snipers unless it paid £20m. bad for builders No doubt the numerous battles that Multiplex has fought over the past three years would have been forgotten if the stadium had been delivered on time. ‘Of course. providing the right processes are followed. Fortunately nobody was hurt. the head of construction at developer Hammerson. .' It's projecting the image that all British projects are late. Bath Spa and the Jubilee Line extension all live on in the public's memory.

causing the entire site to be evacuated. You've got to look at them and ask ‘Did they try and work with the UK industry?' It's a bit strange that people aren't looking at all the thousands of projects that are delivered on time and on budget. So all the responsibility was on the contractor. With Wembley it's the exact opposite . "And if one bid is 10% less than everyone else's. was accurately following its method statement when the collapse occurred. Multiplex has done badly out of Wembley. Hollandia. "We look at everyone on their merits."You never hear of the success stories such as the Emirates Stadium. The collapse cost an estimated £600. "The only way to deliver these jobs on time and on budget is to pre-plan by drawing everyone together and seeing what prices they come back with. "It's just one project that in any case was produced by an Australian contractor. It was obviously not do-able at that price. Multiplex had to cut costs from day one. What we've had is two main disasters. Clients must look very carefully when they take on contractors and ask themselves whether they really know the market. you throw it away. and whether it was all down to Multiplex's skill or lack of skill." he says. and the collapse has affected the temporary works programme on the stadium. "It's all to do with cultural alignment and the way you work together ." But one senior figure close to Carillion says the failures at Wembley says more about the Australian than the British construction industry. On the Scottish parliament we never established the right scope for it . therefore. Multiplex is assessing whether the subcontractor. but that the scope of works was ill-defined. Multiplex and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating the incident." Another senior contractor agrees that. It wasn't the contracting policy that was at fault. only the few problems schemes. "Looking to the future you have to wonder what the chances are for them in the UK." he says. "I don't think it's fair to use Wembley as indicative of UK construction.000 in wages as the workers were sent home on full pay. is that major projects should not be let by lowest tender bidding." says Wright. regardless of blame.the scope was obvious and it seems from what the client is saying that it hasn't been changed. "Unless you've been part of the procurement process it's very difficult to know where the tension points were." The lesson that Hall draws from this." embley was hit by a safety scare on 20 March when a 50 tonne steel rafter fell from its temporary position on the roof." he adds. got in a muddle with the subcontractors and ended up going's pretty much the most important feature now.the client never established what it wanted. ." Hammerson is among the firms that would think twice about working with the Australian contractor again. It's certainly not done them anything like as much good as it should have. but factors will include whether they're litigious and whether they're proactive or reactive.

A bad start: Negotiating the fixed-price deal Multiplex was first awarded a contract to build Wembley stadium in early 2000 as part of a joint venture agreement with Bovis. the whole scheme would have collapsed. The scheme was finally backed in September 2002. The report also revealed that six reviews were undertaken into the project 2001 and 2002 to assess whether the government ought to give the project the go-ahead. The meetings Multiplex had with the client were subject to a National Audit Office inquiry. which found that. had the contract to rebuild the stadium been retendered. Multiplex negotiated separately with client Wembley National Stadium Ltd and was eventually awarded a £326. . who threatened legal action over the negotiations. However. Multiplex eventually renegotiated the contract to £445m after detailed specifications for the project had been worked out. when Bovis pulled out of the deal because of concerns over cost increases.5m fixed-price deal – to the fury of Bovis.