The passing of a pioneer

Accountancy Age is fond of describing accountancy as a forward-looking industry, rather than a backward-looking profession, and Buckley played a key role in effecting that change.

In Tenon, he launched the first accountancy consolidator, pioneering a new corporate structure for accountancy practices. And while there has not yet been a flood of firms looking to embrace the stock market, in Numerica and Vantis there have been significant followers.

More are expected to gather – though probably not anytime soon given Tenon’s current, much publicised woes. But even before Buckley’s departure, Tenon had already been forced into some very public blood-letting.

Last April it was dealt a severe blow when Jonathan Freedman quit as the group’s finance director, just days after announcing ‘disappointing’ results. Chairman Eric Stobart also recently resigned.

Key to Buckley’s resignation was the news that the consolidator did not expect to announce a profit for the second half of 2002. It wasn’t the group’s first profit warning. A year earlier, it had admitted that it was paying the ‘price of rapid expansion’.

The fact that there appeared to be no end in sight to these profit warnings lay at the heart of Buckley’s resignation. He had repeatedly sought to reassure investors by stating: ‘We always maintained that 2001 would be a year of coming together and 2002 will be the year of delivery.’ Last week it became clear that that would not be the case.

With Buckley gone, Tenon has moved to fill the hole quickly. Andy Raynor, Freedman’s replacement as FD, steps up to the MD’s chair. A former senior partner of BDO Stoy Hayward, Raynor took on the FD’s role only on a temporary basis last April. He has his work cut out.

If ever an act demonstrated the difference between profession and industry – and how painful the transition can be – it is Buckley’s departure.

The stock market will provide many things, not least access to capital.

But it always demands a price.

Initially that price is the disclosure that investors demand. Ultimately, if things don’t go well, that price can be your job. Pressure from City investors has helped persuade many innovators to stand aside from the companies they have helped create – ask Maurice Saatchi, for instance.

Some, like Richard Branson, have only survived by taking their companies private again.

The market is no respecter of pioneers.

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