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Founders of Major O.C. Architectural Company Split Up


IRVINE — Robert Yamafuji's and Don Corbin's architectural firm of CYP Inc. was once dubbed by industry followers as "a marriage made in heaven." That 16-year union ended in a messy divorce this week when Yamafuji opened a new architectural firm in Irvine--the KTGY Group Inc.--after departing from CYP last month with 20 of its employees.

Yamafuji blamed the split-up on "philosophical differences over the future course of the company." He and Corbin co-founded CYP, which became one of Orange County's most successful architectural firms--generating more than $20 million in revenue last year from clients around the globe.

"Basically, I was looking for (CYP) to become more of a corporate company that would continue from generation to generation," Yamafuji said. "My founding partner thought of the company as a partnership that would end at the end of our careers."

George Hammond, senior vice president and a principal of CYP, said that the Costa Mesa company will replace some of the employees it lost to KTGY. "We're charging on," he said. "We're going to maintain our full services."

Yamafuji, chief executive of KTGY, said he wanted to "bring the younger generation of architects and planners into the ownership of the company to ensure that it continues on."

CYP had four principals--Yamafuji, Corbin, Hammond and Gary Gregson. Gregson, a former board member and executive vice president of CYP, joined Yamafuji at KTGY.

Six other former CYP executives also left the company to become principals in KTGY: John Tully, Hiroaki Kinoshita, Jim Thomas, Nancy Trudeau, Aret Gulmezian and Frank Yonemori. KTGY lured about 13 additional employees away from CYP as well. Before the split, CYP had about 100 employees at branches in Oakland, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bangkok and Honolulu.

KTGY takes its initials from the last names of the company's eight principals. Hammond said there are no plans to rename CYP, which stands for Corbin, Yamafuji & Partners.

Last year was CYP's most lucrative ever, Yamafuji said. About half of CYP's $20 million-plus in revenue came from clients in Japan and the Far East, many of whom followed Yamafuji to KTGY, he said. "It was against the (contractual) agreement with CYP for us to solicit (CYP) clients," he said. "They made the choice to come with us."

Some of CYP's bigger projects over the years have included a 900-unit condominium complex in Bangkok, hotels in Austria and West Germany, and the elaborate 356-room Four Seasons Hotel still under construction on Kona, Hawaii.

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