Missouri Merger Moves

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Accounting firm Whitlock, Selim & Keehn LLP is fresh off its first merger in its 22-year history.

The firm Patricia S. Stoner CPA PC merged with WSK in January, as owner Patti Stoner became WSK's sixth partner.

Stoner, a certified public accountant, had owned a practice in Springfield since 1986. Her staff accountant, Judy Gann, also joined WSK in the merger, which adds 432 clients to WSK's roster of 1,700 clients.

“I wanted to focus on the client work, and I found that an awful lot of my time was spent on the administrative hassles,” Stoner said. “I was tired of reinventing the wheel when they've got so much more in terms of resources.”

At its peak, Stoner's firm employed three people. By contrast, WSK, Springfield's fourth-largest CPA firm according to Springfield Business Journal research, has 33 employees, including 18 CPAs, following the merger.

WSK Managing Partner W. David Myers said both Stoner and WSK have built their practices on serving the accounting needs of small- and mid-size businesses, so the merger was a natural fit. He wouldn't say whether Stoner or WSK initiated the merger.

“We've known each other for a long time,” Myers said, adding that the decision to merge was an easy one.

While this is the first merger for WSK since R. Barnes Whitlock, Elmer C. Selim and David A. Keehn established the firm under its current banner, the firm actually has roots that go back 90 years. That trio split from Fox & Co. to form WSK in 1985.

The merger caps a year of growth for WSK, which experienced a 15 percent revenue increase and added eight employees.

Myers, who projects revenues of $3.5 million over the next year, credited the 2006 success to improved division of labor and other efficiency measures.

WSK's competitors don't expect much impact from the merger.

“If two large firms merged, that's totally different than rolling in a small or single-person practice,” said Steven Hufham, managing partner of KPM, which has merged four times in its 40-year history.

Bob Helm, managing partner of Elliott Robinson & Co., said each of Springfield's larger firms have established client markets, which shouldn't be interrupted by the merger.

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