Charleston Regional Business Journal
Accounting firms merging, joining Dixon Hughes
By Dan McCue, Staff Writer

The merger of Charleston’s two largest accounting firms is good news for them and potentially good news for the city’s other, much smaller certified public accountants, according to a practitioner who went through a similar merger 18 months ago.

“No question, this is blockbuster news, and very much the talk of the local accounting community,” said Christopher C. Nowell, of Jarrard, Nowell & Russell LLC in Charleston. “At the same time, there’s a real opportunity for those of us who remain relatively small enterprises in the market.”

On Oct. 19, Gamble, Givens & Moody LLC and Pratt-Thomas Gumb and Co. PA revealed they’ve agreed to merge their operations and together will merge with Asheville, N.C.-based Dixon Hughes PLLC, one of the top 20 accounting firms in the United States.

Brian Moody, managing partner at Gamble, Givens and Moody, said the mergers become official on Nov. 1.

“Locally, we’ve taken a very friendly rival who we compete with for clients and employees and turned it into a Lowcountry powerhouse,” Moody said of the Gamble Givens/Pratt Thomas deal. The companies will be renamed Dixon Hughes.

“The question, however, was how could we make a huge splash in the entire Southeast,” Moody continued.

“That’s where Dixon Hughes comes in. They’ve been courting both our companies for many years, and the time finally was right for us to come together.”

Prior to the merger, Gamble Givens and Pratt-Thomas both did about $10 million a year in business, industry observers said. Dixon Hughes does about $140 million.

By comparison, according to Nowell, Charleston’s other accounting firms do an annual business of $2 million and under.

“There was always a big disparity between No. 1 and No. 2 and the rest of us in terms of volume of business,” Nowell said. “Now, they’re even bigger.”

But Nowell, who went through a merger in 2005 when his company bought DeBrux & Associates, said good news for the companies involved can also be good news for the industry locally.

“I think the benefits to the rest of us are three-fold,” Nowell said. “First, we’ll benefit from their changing their focus and potentially parting with some of their smaller clients. There also will likely be good and talented employees who won’t make the transition with the company. That’s a nice talent pool for us.

“Lastly, there’s a good chance that the leadership of the new firm will be so focused on internal matters, at least in the short term, that they’ll miss client opportunities that we can capitalize on,” he said.

Moody declined to discuss who his firms clients are, but said the two companies’ clients include “some of the more prominent companies and individuals in the Charleston region.”