CORRECTED: Canceled Merger Shakes Up Largest Accounting Firms List

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Sep. 19, 2011 12:00 am  

A canceled merger and the naming of the first female managing partner at one of Arkansas' largest accounting firms constitute some of the sector's big news during the last year.

(Click here for a PDF list of the state's largest accounting firms. A spreadsheet version of the list is available for purchase here.)

At Frost PLLC of Little Rock, the canceled merger meant that not only did Frost slip from No. 1 on the list in 2010 to No. 2 in 2011, it shed the name Frazer Frost, returning to plain old Frost PLLC.

In November 2010, Frost and Moore Stephens Wurth Frazer & Torbet LLP of California said they'd called off the merger that they had announced in 2009.

But Frost still took a step in a new direction, naming its first female managing partner, Cheryl Shuffield, who started her accounting career at the firm in 1979.

BKD LLP of Little Rock, with 79 CPAs, retook the top spot on the list.

Last year, Frazer Frost, as it was then known, reported 98 CPAs, but Shuffield said she didn't think that number reflected only CPAs in Arkansas. This year, Frost reported 47 CPAs in its offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

Shuffield said Frost had "weathered the recession quite well." Although the firm's revenue growth isn't as great as Frost would like and 2010 had been "a little bit more flat," Shuffield said, "we've not suffered any revenue declines."

She echoed what Arkansas business leaders have said since the economic downturn began, that the state remains somewhat protected from the worst of the troubles, particularly Little Rock, with its employment base in state government and health care.

"Of course, our work truly is from coast to coast," Shuffield said. "We're heavily concentrated in the food industry and food's like health care. Everyone's got to have it."

Among Frost's clients are George's Inc. of Springdale, Mountaire Corp. of North Little Rock and O.K. Industries Inc. of Fort Smith.

(An earlier version of this story said that Honkamp Krueger & Co. PC, based in Dubuque, Iowa, had 36 CPAs on staff in the firm's Bentonville office, ranking it No. 3 on Arkansas Business' list of largest accounting firms in Arkansas. That was based on the firm's answers to AB's survey of firms. However, Jimmy Corley, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy, told Arkansas Business that though Honkamp Krueger held an Arkansas license, there were no records of it employing any CPAs licensed by the state. Ryan Hauber, managing partner at Honkamp Krueger, later acknowledged the 36 CPAs referred to the entire firm, that it has 30 CPAs who do work for companies based in Arkansas and that all 30 were licensed in other states.)



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