Exodus Watch: 600+ in Grant Thornton’s Hong Kong Office Move to BDO

By | November 3, 2010

What in the name of Stephen Chipman’s dubious accent is going on here? Why would a firm shut down an office in an emerging financial center, thus losing six hundred partners and professionals to one of their rivals?

If you ask BDO’s Hong Kong Chairman and CEO Albert Au Siu-cheung, it has nothing to do with the disappearance of former GT managing partner Gabriel Azedo. It’s simply a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that found its way into the lap of BDO:


From the South China Morning Post:

“The opportunity to have a massive admission of so much established accounting talent is rare. This will strengthen BDO’s competitiveness in the local accounting industry,” Au said. “This will also create a bigger mid-tier firm allowing listed companies a choice for auditing and professional services in future.”

Au said the recruitment would be completed by the end of this year, and all staff and partners would become part of BDO, while Grant Thornton would cease operation in Hong Kong. Grant Thornton’s clients – including 130 listed companies audited by the firm – had been notified of the change and most agreed to make the switch to BDO, Au said.

Au said lawsuits involving Grant Thornton’s missing boss, former managing partner Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, were not a factor in the move.

This is a head scratcher for sure. Although this isn’t the first time a major firm has had mysterio issues in H to the K. Last year, Ernst & Young’s office was raided for the firm’s involvement with Akai that ultimately resulted in the firm paying a rumored $400 million to settle the case.

We reached out to PR at Grant Thornton’s International office but since they’ve probably been at the pub for hours already, we’re still awaiting a response.

We did find this announcement from Grant Thornton International which states that the firm has a new “member firm” in HK but nothing about the movement of the 600 professionals:

Grant Thornton has announced the appointment of a new member firm in Hong Kong. The new practice, set up by Grant Thornton China, will begin trading as Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong but will adopt the name “Grant Thornton” in due course. The new firm will be led by Daniel Lin, an established and highly regarded member of the accounting profession in Hong Kong.

[…]

The new firm plans to have a staff of over 100 people within 12 months. Significantly, it will be fully integrated with Grant Thornton China and be part of a network of 10 offices providing seamless access to 65 partners and over 1,500 professionals across mainland China and Hong Kong.

Ed Nusbaum, chief executive officer of Grant Thornton International explains, “Grant Thornton has long been committed to a strategy of an integrated approach to serving clients across the China market, including Hong Kong. This appointment of Jingdu Tianhua Hong Kong is a vital step in that strategy and our member firms, now over 100 in number, look forward to working with their new colleagues in Hong Kong.”

Okay, so a “vital step” includes the closing of an office the defection of 600 professionals and “130 listed companies” for an office with less than 100 people total? Can anyone – looking straight at you Ed – explain this? Since he’s pretty hard to nail down we’ll take your theories for now.