Robson Rhodes: the merger that solves a problem

Robson Rhodes merger with Grant Thornton resolves a problem the firm had set
itself in an annual report just a couple of years ago – how to become a £200m
firm by 2007.

The merger, announced at the weekend, will create a £369m firm once revenues
from both are combined solving the issue of how the firm would grow from its
current £85m.

Perhaps though, when that ambition was laid out so publicly, it was not
envisaged that the Robson Rhodes name would disappear forever from UK
accounting. Having said that, it could not have been an unknown possibility.

And getting this far has had its ups and downs, as well as its casualities.
Sukhbinder Heer, the former managing partner charged with raising that
income parted company with firm after gambling on a steep rise in consultancy
income. Robson Rhodes insisted that the departure and the unfulfilled ambitions
were unconnected.

Heer later suggested it was a lack of entrepreneurial drive that held back
the firm. On taking on a new post with MGI Wenham Major, he said: ‘Having worked
for a large firm, I know how difficult it can be to move quickly. At a small
firm with an entrepreneurial spirit you can implement new ideas and grow
quickly. This was something that I tried to develop at Robson Rhodes, but there
were always a number of people that had to be moved along.’

The £200m ambition seemed to be dead in the water.

David Maxwell, the current managing partner, then admitted in July last year
that he might have to ask partners for more money in order to invest in future
growth, while at the same time revealing a u-turn in strategy.

At the time he told Accountancy Age: ‘We are discussing the possibility of
asking partners for funds to invest in future growth. Our focus is on building
depth in key sectors rather than achieving £200m revenues. Quality is our
priority. We want to develop people rather than numbers.’

Robson Rhodes also announced it would merge with US firm McGladrey – but it
seems that signatures were never placed on the contract as talks went on

Now however, Maxwell has taken the firm in another direction entirely, with
staff, partners and officers becoming part of Grant Thornton UK.

It is unclear as yet whether the management team at Robson Rhodes will play
any part in determining the direction of GT, or whether the coming together will
mean job losses for some.

For the time being however, the future of Robson Rhodes the firm has been
well and truly settled.

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