Ellerbe Becket is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and now it is toasting another milestone: The firm announced on Oct. 26 that it was acquired by AECOM, the global technical services firm, which previously had purchased DMJM, Spillis Candela, and EDAW. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

"We were doing very well," says Ellerbe's president and CEO, Rick Lincicome, "but we knew we were too focused on healthcare," which represented 80 percent of the firm's practice. "We also needed to grow more quickly geographically." Two years ago, Ellerbe's directors and principals began looking at both acquiring businesses and being acquired as possible next steps. Then the recession hit hard in late 2008, and exploratory talks with several other firms were suspended.

By this past spring, Ellerbe's directors felt the firm—an employee-owned venture with about 450 people in seven offices, five in the U.S. and two in the Middle East—was sound enough to go back to talking with AECOM, which employs 44,000. "We have complementary expertise," Lincicome says. "We've got sports. They have urban planning and master planning. They've got seven provinces in China. They're in Australia, and the Middle East. It would have taken [Ellerbe] a long time to develop such a platform."