Big Six – PwC hit by Zimbabwe defection

The merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand suffered a further casualty last week after the Zimbabwe arm of Coopers quit to join Ernst & Young.

The decision is another blow to PricewaterhouseCooper’s hopes of a trouble-free merger and takes the number of offices refusing to join PwC to four.

The other three are Brazil, Chile and Zambia.

Many more Coopers offices have considered leaving the PwC network, including Spain and Sweden, but have stayed after heated arguments among partners.

In Spain, the managing partner resigned after a bitter battle to take the firm into the Arthur Andersen fold.

So far, all the old PW offices have joined the new firm. The merger has been seen by some as a takeover by PW, run from its New York offices. But in the UK, Coopers is seen as the stronger firm and its partners are set to dominate many of the key committees in the new firm.

Coopers managing partner in Zimbabwe John Knight confirmed the move had been controversial. ‘I don’t want to say very much about it. There has been a lot of bitterness here,’ he said. ‘We decided not to join PwC because it was a culture thing. There is a lot of sadness at leaving Coopers, but we are very happily settled into the E&Y network.’ But he said there was likely to be some loss of work from the Coopers connection.

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