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April 30, 2008

Bentley Jennison acquires parts of troubled UK firm

RSM Bentley Jennison has acquired the core audit, accountancy and compliance tax arm of troubled UK accountancy firm Wenham Major. Thirty staff, including 22 professionals, will join the Birmingham office of RSM Bentley Jennison, adding £2 million ($3.9 million) to the firm’s national fee income.

jWenham Major entered into administration with UK consolidator Vantis recently after it emerged that financial irregularities had been found at the Wenham Major Private Client subsidiary. RSM Bentley Jennison managing partner Tony Stockdale explained that the acquired parts of the business were completely independent of the private client practice. “A few years back, a decision [at Wenham Major] was taken to expand into other areas. It’s my understanding that it is those other areas where the problems are. Our due diligence on what we’ve purchased is that there are no issues within the bit we now have.”

The addition grows Bentley Jennison’s Birmingham office by about 15 percent. Wenham Major director Viv Shadbolt joins the firm but previous joint owners Ammar Azam and John Joyce, who were heavily involved in the private client business, have not.

Stockdale said Wenham Major’s reputation in the midlands region and the strength of its client base, which features a lot of commercial assembly and manufacturing companies, is what attracted Bentley Jennison to the firm. “Clearly, £2 million revenue out of £80 million is not a big number,” he said.

“We’ve never been a business that is only interested in having £80 million, £100 million, or ‘x’ million on the top line. We’re not interested in the sum being a big number. What we’re interested in is the quality being there and Wenham Major has a high quality client base.”

RSM Bentley Jennison has doubled in size every four years since its foundation in 1984. The acquisition of Wenham Major is the firm’s third deal since January.

In April, RSM Bentley Jennison Financial Management acquired the Chancery Group to become the UK’s fifth largest financial management division of an accounting firm and in March the firm

launched a new corporate restructuring division with a team from Begbies Traynor.

Bentley Jennsion said it will grow in excess of 10 percent to more than £70 million in fee income in the financial year ending May 2008. In last year’s International Accounting Bulletin UK survey, the firm reported £63 million in revenue. Stockdale added: “We’ve seen some pretty good growth, over 10 percent, and we are looking towards building the business to £100 million as soon as we sensibly can. I’d certainly expect that to be the case in 2009. I don’t think our place on the league table will have changed. I’d be surprised if we have. The real point is we will have gained on some of those above us.”

Stockdale added that Bentley Jennison was in merger and acquisition talks with three potential targets.

Arvind Hickman

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