Top 50 – moving Ford-ward

It’s been a mammoth 12 months for Tony Ford. The senior partner and founder
of Ford Campbell has seen the practice grow by a record 134%, rocketing it into
the Accountancy Age Top 50 for the first time.

Ford, and his partner Andrew Campbell, set up the business 12 years ago and
it now dominates the northwest as the largest independent corporate finance-led
practice in the region.

The group, which is the highest new entry into this year’s Top 50 at 26, has
seen turnover increase from £6.1m in 2003 to £14.3m in 2004 due to an ambitious
expansion programme.

Ford, a specialist in strategic advice, private equity and turnarounds, has
developed the group from small beginnings into five business divisions and three
sister companies.

Over the past 12 months, he has overseen a number of strategic mergers,
acquisitions and new start-ups and the group now provides corporate finance,
transaction support, business advisory and audit, specialist taxation, search
and selection, as well as financial planning and private equity.

This growth in services ­ adding an extra three lines from 2003 ­ is part of
his plan to turn Ford Campbell into the ‘complete business partner’.

Ford significantly boosted the corporate finance part of the business with
the acquisition of Freedman Ross in 2003. The firm was struggling to break the
market in Leeds and has since merged its transaction services, strategic finance
and recruitment divisions into the new Ford Campbell Freedman. Ford sees this as
a key contributor to its record growth.

It also acquired Moorgate House plc, an ailing independent financial adviser
and integrated the business into sister company Carrwood. After a redundancy and
relocation programme, the acquisition has seen its IFA business increase from
£2.4m to £8.5m and it is now one of the largest providers of IFA services to

It has also opened a new division, Ford Hastings, a search and selection
business based in London and Manchester to recruit finance specialists for Ford
Campbell’s client base.

Ford has proven that he has a knack of predicting the ebbs and flows of the
regional economy, pouring resources into high-end corporate finance work during
times of plenty and developing his turnaround work when belts start to tighten.

He is known to get a ‘big kick’ out of the turnaround side of the business
and sees it as helping to save jobs and safeguard the local economy.

This work has also proven to be extremely good business, with Ford Campbell
offering a strategic partnership-style service in exchange for an equity share.
This ensures companies, that are also looking to grow or to sell, use all of the
group’s services while it gets a stake in any success.

In the case of telecoms company Eurocall, the firm reduced its fees by 50% in
return for a 2% equity share. Within three years Eurocall had moved from
break-even point of £20m to a turnover of £55m and was sold last year for £42m.

There are few accountancy practices that can rival the growth of Ford
Campbell. Just four years ago it was celebrating winning Accountancy Age’s Small
Business of the Year Award ­ now it is challenging the upper tier of the Top 50.

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