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It’s Now Official: Grant Thornton Has Elected Brad Preber as CEO

UPDATE: Nice work, tipsters. Grant Thornton released the following press release today confirming the story we broke yesterday (see below line break):

The Partnership Board at Grant Thornton LLP announced that Bradley J. Preber will serve as the firm’s CEO. The board appointed Preber to the role following a comprehensive search process, and the firm’s partners and principals ratified the selection.

Preber has been serving as Grant Thornton’s interim CEO since June 2019 – and will now serve as the firm’s CEO through July 31, 2022 (his mandatory retirement date).

“Brad is a decisive leader who believes in delivering exceptional value to clients,” said Jim Wittmer, chairman of the Partnership Board at Grant Thornton. “As CEO, Brad will fuel Grant Thornton’s continued success providing innovative audit, tax and advisory services built on a foundation of quality.”

According to Preber: “Today’s businesses face formidable challenges – from accelerating growth and keeping pace with technology to mitigating risks and enhancing audit quality. As CEO, I will help Grant Thornton build on our track record of helping clients overcome these challenges through our uniquely differentiated client services, and our singular ‘status go’ culture.”

Preber joined Grant Thornton in 2004, after serving as a partner at Arthur Andersen. He has held numerous leadership roles at Grant Thornton, including: national managing partner of Business Risk Services; office managing partner in Phoenix; and chairman of the firm’s Partnership Board.

Consulting magazine named Preber to its 2019 Top 25 Consultants list for leadership – citing his 35 years of experience and his stewardship of Grant Thornton’s Business Risk Services practice, which Preber grew into a $200 million business, including a Cyber Risk practice he launched in 2017.

Preber is renowned for his experience serving clients as a litigation consultant and expert witness, as well as a forensic accountant, neutral arbitrator and fraud investigator. He has handled numerous complex issues and events with an emphasis on ‘bet the company’ commercial disputes and fraud claims.

Preber received a bachelor’s of business administration degree with a concentration in accounting from the University of New Mexico. He is a certified public accountant in Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Preber is a Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Global Management Accountant, Certified Construction Auditor and is certified in Financial Forensics. He is also active in several professional, civic and community organizations, and has served on a number of boards of directors.

During the afternoon on Friday, this tip landed in our inbox:

“Grant Thornton CEO announced internally – finalists were Nichole Jordan, Jeff Burgess (audit managing partner) and Brad Preber. The nod went to Preber.”

We contacted another source who also confirmed that Preber would be taking over as CEO.

When reached for comment this morning, a Grant Thornton spokesperson didn’t confirm or deny the news in a statement to Going Concern:

“Grant Thornton LLP’s partnership group is currently in the process of electing its new CEO. The firm does not discuss operational matters or procedures.”

Not sure if this has been the case since Preber took over as interim CEO-elect on Aug. 1, but I found the lack of an “interim” tag under his photo in the About Us section of GT’s website interesting:

Preber, who joined Grant Thornton in 2003, took over as interim CEO-elect after Mike McGuire said “thanks but no thanks” to having his term as CEO extended to his mandatory retirement date of July 31, 2021. McGuire is presumably very busy acting as a GT “brand ambassador” in his role as CEO emeritus.

Once Preber got slapped with the title of “interim CEO-elect,” he stepped away from his duties as national managing partner of business risk services, managing partner of the Phoenix office, and chairman of the partnership board, the firm said.

But as Preber was transitioning to his new role, we started getting tips about a bunch of layoffs at Grant Thornton and that the firm was shutting down its office in Westborough, MA.

The mass hysteria resulted in Preber leading a firmwide call on Aug. 1, when he confirmed that 230 professionals and 40 PPMDs were let go—“mostly cutting fat in ICS (internal client service, non-client facing people) plus people from certain advisory service lines that were deemed no longer strategic fits for the firm,” a source told us at that time.

While GT’s partnership board seems to have been in Preber’s corner, our tipster told us on Friday that “partners are really struggling with Preber.”

“He made a lot of shortsighted, half-baked management decisions this summer. Seen less as progress and more as a coup.”

When asked to explain, this person told us:

“Shortsighted decisions were the heavy cuts over the summer. They let go of partners who were key technical specialists who held parts of the practice together without consulting local office leaders about the impact.”

After Preber addressed the layoff rumors in the firmwide call, we were given a heads up that GT was considering three of its top women executives for the CEO seat. One of the potential candidates was Nichole Jordan, national managing partner of markets, clients, and industry, who apparently was a finalist for the role.

GTers, let us know in the comment section or using the contact info below whether you think Preber taking over as CEO is a good move or a bad move for your firm.