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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

The List

The List/17.5″/cw1st/mike2nd BY JOAN OSTERWALDER Staff Reporter A recent acquisition helped give American Express Tax & Business Services a slight edge over Miller Kaplan Arase & Co. LLP to become the largest accounting firm in the San Fernando Valley, according to this week’s list. North Hollywood-based Miller Kaplan Arase had held the No. 1 spot until American Express, which has its L.A. headquarters in Woodland Hills, acquired Altschuler, Melvoin & Glasser LLP out of Century City. “We believe we’re better positioned to attract companies that we target,” said Maier N. Rosenberg, senior managing director for American Express and managing partner for AM & G.; “We see no downsides; we only see a lot of opportunity.” But the No. 2 firm said bigger isn’t necessarily better. “We take tremendous pride in being the largest locally owned firm in the San Fernando Valley,” said George Nadel Rivin, partner with Miller Kaplan Arase. Firms that choose to remain smaller are in a position to work more closely with the community and offer more-specialized services, he said. “We continue to do what we do best: provide a very intimate service. What we’re finding is that more and more consolidators are entering the arena and buying up accounting firms and looking to come up with greater markets. A couple of years down the line, you’re going to have a consolidator-dominated list.” Miller Kaplan Arase has been around since 1940, has 89 accounting professionals and serves the entertainment, radio, television and apparel industries, among others. Finishing in the No. 3 spot this year is Grobstein Horwath & Co. LLP with 80 accounting professionals. Kellogg & Andelson Accountancy Corp. ranked fourth with 72 accounting professionals, and White, Zuckerman, Warsavsky & Luna finished fifth with 53 accounting professionals. All three firms are based in Sherman Oaks. Robert Jensen Jr., partner with Burbank-based King, King, Alleman & Jensen, said larger accounting firms are better suited to serve publicly held companies because of the experience, background and research capabilities. But smaller firms offer better services to smaller clients. “I don’t necessarily think that bigger is better,” he said. “It seems to me that the larger CPA firms are more suited to the much larger clients because they have higher billing rates and more turnover.” Jensen, who used to work for a national accounting firm, said he prefers the environment of a locally owned and operated company. “I like being independent, calling my own shots and being a big fish in a small pond,” he said. King, King, Alleman & Jensen was founded in 1973 and has 13 accounting professionals. The firm, ranked No. 14 on the list, serves the manufacturing, construction, real estate and health care industries, among others. Rosenberg said the recent acquisition of AM & G; by American Express helps expand both firms’ geographic reach as well as their talent base. “We felt that we would have more resources available to grow the practice and be more competitive and deliver better services,” he said. “There is such a diverse level of expertise necessary for different types of services.” American Express, headquartered in Minneapolis, employs 91 accounting professionals in the L.A. area. The company serves the health care, retail, real estate, entertainment, legal and manufacturing and distribution industries. AM & G; is based in Chicago and has offices in New York and Tampa. The accounting firm targets middle-market companies, those with annual sales of $5 million to $300 million, Rosenberg said. The December acquisition has not yet resulted in any changes in personnel or management, he added, but employees are getting better benefits and opportunities as a result of the deal. “It’s business as usual,” he said. “Our office in Century City is operating as we have in the past. We’ll just cover more territory.” Steven J. Wolf, managing director of American Express, said mergers make sense for small and medium-sized accounting firms that want to expand their financial base and improve their marketing capabilities. But the acquisition has to make sense, Wolf said. “I don’t personally believe the bigger, the better.” Regarding American Express’ recent takeover of AM & G;, Wolf said, “They’ve become an additional marketing partner in all our offices. We think there will be a lot of synergy. We’re just getting to know them and they’re getting to know us.”

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