A couple months ago I guessed that Baker Tilly was working on a big merger — to which a merger expert I pester from time to time asked incredulously “with who?” (paraphrased) — and then suddenly CEO Alan Whitman up and left making me think maybe I was wrong. Whitman’s sudden departure was a little over two weeks ago and now that people have pretty much forgotten about it, we have this piece in Bloomberg Tax about his replacement:
Baker Tilly’s new CEO Jeff Ferro says the company will continue its highly acquisitive streak, expanding into new markets in the Southeast and beefing up its presence in major metros after the abrupt departure of its former CEO Alan Whitman in March.
Ferro, who has committed to a two-year term as interim CEO during an executive search, told Bloomberg Tax that Baker Tilly aims to solidify its presence in Florida and Georgia, and “double down” in major metro areas like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Potential mergers with “four or five” other firms have been discussed with senior leadership, he said. The firm also plans on executing its “break the mold” strategy hatched under Whitman, implementing programs like placing new hires in an innovation lab to cull suggested changes and improvements.
Side note: “placing new hires in an innovation lab to cull suggested changes and improvements” sounds like some kind of torture chamber where they force new hires to say brutally honest things about the firm under threat of waterboarding. Let’s hope they film it and put it on YouTube.
Anyway, given that Jeff Ferro “has guided several successful acquisitions by Baker Tilly” per his bio, one has to wonder if Alan was standing in the way of these big fancy mergers I was sure were coming down the pipe and the interim CEO…isn’t? Another Bloomberg Tax piece says that Whitman resigned after he disagreed “with the firm’s other top leaders on how to advance an aggressive and unique business strategy,” and that he aligned with the BT board on strategy but not execution. Take from that what you will.
Baker Tilly has been making moves. Big, obvious, expensive moves. A flashy merger would be a great culmination of those moves.
But then the question is: with whom? CLA? That would make a firm with a combined revenue of $2.8 billion, knocking BDO out of 6th place (per INSIDE Public Accounting Top 500 data). But then CLA is another Midwest-y firm and that wouldn’t align with getting a foothold outside of Chicago.
No, it’ll be something way less flashy than that. Here are Baker Tilly’s last five acquisitions, in descending chronological order:
Will Baker Tilly’s next acquisitions be flashier than Bader Martin’s $20 million in revenue? Or Henry+Horne’s $34 million? Probably. How much flashier is the question.
Speaking of flashy, there was also the acquisition of Squar Milner ($130 million in revenue) in 2020 which pushed Baker Tilly into the top ten.
Whatever it is, I hope it’s a name we recognize. There are a lot of firms up for grabs right now and a lot of talent problems that can be soothed by merging in already-hired talent. Keep an eye on this Jeff dude, he’s making moves. Oh and if you hear any merger buzz, do get in touch.