Grant Thornton UK swallows Robson Rhodes whole

Grant Thornton in the UK merged earlier in the year with RSM Robson Rhodes, making it “a leading player in the mid-market and the provider of non-audit services to one in four of the FTSE 100,” according to GT’s chief Michael Cleary.

The board of the merged entity makes the transaction look more like an acquisition:

Michael Cleary heads up the board as chief executive, but, of the former Robson Rhodes partners, only David Maxwell has a berth on the panel, which has seven members in total.

So basically Grant Thornton is maintaining control over the new entity through its board. Is this good or bad? Shouldn’t there be more than one former RSM partner on the board, since there are 7 members? Seems strange to me is all. Makes me think the merger was just to acquire RSM’s clients rather than really synergize and reap the benefits of shaking things up for both groups management-wise.

Michael Cleary was so effusive in press releases after the merger that this was heralding in a new age for the merged firm, in terms of providing the Big Four with some real competition.

Jeremy Newman of BDO at the time commented that his firm was going in a different direction in taking the fight to the Big Four’s dominance, and that merging to compete was sending the wrong message about what it really takes to provide a Big Four level of service to clients. Basically, the message was that size matters. Jeremy has been adamant that it is investment in people that really matters at the mid-tier level.

Time will tell which strategy works better.