In August, the board of HOK Group and the managers of HOK Sport Venue Event, which has been a part of HOK for a quarter century and a wholly owned subsidiary since 2000, agreed to a transfer of ownership, allowing HOK Sport to become an independent firm. Although financial information was not disclosed, HOK vice chairman Clark Davis says it was basically a rearrangement of employee ownership. About 300 shareholders have stock in HOK Group, and members of HOK Sport were able to exchange their HOK Group stock for sports practice stock.

The buyout comes as a natural progression of the practices, say those involved in the transaction. As an independent subsidiary of HOK, HOK Sport has effectively been run as its own business, meaning the move will have no effect on day-to-day operations or client relationships.

"On our minds was how we grow and incentivize our staff, how we keep key players involved," says Joe Spear, senior principal at HOK Sport. "We didn't control the stock program that HOK had, and helping us keep our star performers for a long time was a big part [of the decision]." In discussing HOK Sport's relationship with HOK over his 25 years there, Spear says HOK grew the practice by allowing it to do all sports projects the firm received, an opportunity he saw nowhere else.

HOK Sport will keep its name at least through the end of 2008, when the buyout is expected to be complete. A new corporate name and brand are being developed. An article in The Kansas City Star says the transaction includes a noncompete agreement that will last for a few years. The firm's headquarters will remain in Kansas City, Mo., and it will maintain offices in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.; London; and Brisbane, Australia.