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VOL. 11 | NO. 6 | Saturday, February 10, 2018

ATA Expands Memphis Presence With Cannon & Co. Acquisition

By Michael Waddell

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Regional accounting firm Alexander Thompson Arnold PLLC kicked off the new year with the acquisition of Memphis-based Cannon & Co., strengthening its footprint in the market with an eye on future growth and expansion.

“There’s a very similar culture with the two firms, with lots of long-term Memphis roots,” said Cathy Sanborn, a member/partner in Alexander Thompson Arnold’s Memphis office.

ATA traces its roots back to the 1940s and 1950s, when Grady Arnold, William P. Alexander Jr. and Jimmy Thompson started their own practices around West Tennessee. Their firms merged in 2007 and continued to grow through others mergers and acquisitions.

(Left to right) Cathy Sanborn, Cathy Messerly, Charles McLean and J. Schifani are among the members/partners in Alexander Thompson Arnold’s Memphis office. The regional accounting firm recently acquired Cannon & Co. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

The firm’s Memphis office opened in July 2016, following a merger with Collins Thomas & Associates P.C., then merged with McLean and Associates in January 2017.

With the acquisition of Cannon & Co., a firm founded in 1959, ATA’s Memphis office now has 50 employees. Companywide, it touts more than 150 employees spanning 17 offices in four states – 11 in Tennessee, four in Kentucky, and one each in Mississippi and Indiana.

“I think the partners at Cannon & Co. saw the need to turn the reins over to a younger group,” said Terryl Viner, ATA member/partner and employee with Cannon & Co. since 1989. “They had a great reputation, so we felt like it would be a perfect fit. Each one of us has strengths that blend well together.”

Those strengths included Cannon & Co.’s departmentalized structure, with strong tax and audit divisions.

“We had been more generalists and were ready to departmentalize and to take advantage of specializing in those areas,” Sanborn said. “It’s created a lot of energy, more energy together than each firm had separately. People are enjoying working together in new teams.”

ATA services a number of different business lines that Cannon & Co. did not have, including employee benefit plan audits and administration; human resources consulting; and a technology group that handles a number of services, including system selection, web hosting, business evaluation, litigation support, banking practice and other tech areas.

“As ATA has grown over the years, they’ve branched out in different areas to serve the needs of their clients, and they’ve partnered up with strong professionals in each of those business units who are obviously making a difference and growing their practices based on those strengths and very good outcomes for clients,” said new ATA member/partner Mark Puckett, who joined the firm in December.

Consolidation among accounting firms has become a widespread trend as partners at firms across the country approach retirement age and look for a succession plan to ensure their clients’ continued care.

ATA’s acquisition of Cannon & Co. and subsequent transition took about six months to complete.

“ATA really wants to invest in Memphis,” said Puckett, who has worked in the industry for the past 37 years. “It’s a great market with a lot of good companies and entrepreneurial businesses, and that’s who we serve.”

In mid-January, the Memphis office relocated to the Crye-Leike Commercial building at 6525 N. Quail Hollow Road.

“These new offices allow for the consolidation of the practice just in time for our busy season and provides an opportunity for collaboration amongst the professionals, getting to know each other, to work with each other, and to bring the best of the two firms to the clients early in the season,” Puckett said.

In conjunction with the acquisition, several Cannon & Co. employees took on new roles at ATA effective Jan. 1: Cathy Messerly and J. Schifani were promoted to partner, and David Cuicchi and David Curbo became principals.

“One of the things that’s unique about our Memphis office is that of our six partners, three are women and three are men, and I don’t think you will find that at any other firm in Memphis,” Sanborn said. “That brings a unique perspective on businesses, and we can serve women-owned and family businesses.”

For the upcoming tax season, the firm is taking on additional interns and administrative staff.

“We are excited to continue our firm’s growth in the Memphis market,” said ATA managing partner John Whybrew. “With Cannon’s additions to the ATA team, it greatly strengthens our capabilities to successfully serve this market well, and we are looking forward to a bright future together.”

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