Neville Russell in European partnership

Group A firm Neville Russell revealed this week it is to merge withargest firm. France’s sixth largest firm Mazars & Guerard.

The firms said theirs would be the first real pan-European partnership with a combined fee income of #160m and 3,500 staff in 26 countries. Accountancy Age reported in February that Neville Russell was discussing such a move.

If the merger wins partner approval, it will be formerly completed on 1 September.

Mazars’ 170 partners and #120m turnover significantly outweighs Neville Russell’s 98 partners and income of #40m. Both firms denied the merger was a takeover by Mazars, although the firm will provide five of the seven members in the executive board. National senior partner John Mellows and national managing partner Derek Smith will provide the Neville Russell contingent.

Mellows said the merger was driven by ‘an element of anxiety’ caused by the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand and possible Group A consolidation.

He said the merger offered ‘the paradox of being European, while providing personal financial services that clients want.’ He added that joining with another medium-sized UK firm would offer ‘cost-saving value, but no more’.

The deal was brokered by accountant Douglas Llambias, who was approached by the French to find a UK firm of the right size and expertise. Neville Russell’s and Mazars both have specialisms in insurance and the French firm also has expertise in banking.

Mazars chairman Patrick de Cambourg said: ‘Apart from the business opportunities that this merger will bring, they have the same professional and business principles.’

The decision has forced Neville Russell to leave the Nexia international network, which Mellows criticised as ‘incapable of developing a coherent development strategy.’

He denied the slump in the firm’s 1997 financial results had any impact on the decision to merge. The firm will be called Mazars Neville Russell but the UK name will be dropped when ‘the time is right’.

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