Brown Edwards acquires longtime local accounting firm Mitchell Wiggins

Roanoke-based accounting firm Brown Edwards has acquired longtime Richmond-based Mitchell Wiggins. (BizSense file)

Back in town for another acquisition, a Roanoke-based accounting firm is beefing up its Richmond presence once again.

Brown Edwards has acquired longtime Richmond-based Mitchell Wiggins. The deal closed today and brings six partners, 47 additional employees and two local offices into the Brown Edwards fold.

It comes less than two years after Brown Edwards’ previous effort to strengthen its Richmond ranks with the acquisition of Gregg & Bailey, an eight-person firm in Midlothian.

Jason Hartman

Jason Hartman, Brown Edwards’ CEO, said while the Gregg & Bailey deal gave the firm its first full-time flag in the area, the Mitchell Wiggins transaction kicks its local growth plan into another gear.

“Richmond is a market we’ve wanted to be in for a long time. In 2020, we got Gregg & Bailey to give us a physical presence. We immediately doubled the size of that office. It’s a big market and we think more critical mass will help serve us better.”

Brown Edwards now has 70 employees in the Richmond area and 400 firm-wide.

Mitchell Wiggins Managing Director David Reardon will lead Brown Edwards’ Richmond region operations. Thomas Puryear, a Mitchell Wiggins partner, will lead the Petersburg and Tri-Cities operations.

The firm will operate out of Mitchell Wiggins’ offices at 1802 Baybery Court in the West End and 100 Flank Road in Petersburg. It also has a client meeting location in Midlothian that opened as part of the Gregg & Bailey deal.

Discussions between the two sides began about two years ago.

“We weren’t necessarily looking to merge up into a firm but we decided to meet,” Reardon said. “Along the way we met with various partners and right away we could tell the cultural fit was in line with ours.”

He added, “It really came down for us to how we can best serve our clients and provide enhanced training and opportunities for our staff.”

Hartman said the courtship between the two firms began with Brown Edwards making the initial approach.

“Probably two thirds of that time was spent just getting to know each other and each other’s firms,” Hartman said. “As we went along in that process we really didn’t hit any bumps. It just felt right.”

The deal marks an end to the Mitchell Wiggins name, which will be retired in favor of the Brown Edwards brand. The firm started in Richmond in 1944, before expanding to Petersburg in the ’60s and later to Fredericksburg for a time.

David Reardon

Reardon, who joined the firm in 1989 after graduating from James Madison University and became managing partner in July, said its bittersweet to see the name become history but that it’s necessary for the firm to continue its growth.

“We’re a 77-year-old firm. It’s really hard to retire the name but it’s about providing an enhanced future for our clients and our staff,” he said.

The Mitchell Wiggins pact was Brown Edwards’ ninth acquisition since 2017. It will bring the firm’s annual revenue to around $70 million and Hartman said the growth streak is likely to continue.

“We are interested and we’ve had some other firms express interest to at least have a conversation,” he said.

Hartman said the opportunities for acquisitions are fueled mainly by two factors. One is a generational shift of longtime CPA partners aging out and looking for a succession plan.

“The other thing that’s more intense now is the staffing shortage,” he said. “Big or small, every firm is just having horrendous trouble retaining people. Entry level hiring isn’t bad but retention beyond two or three years is really difficult.

“We hope that as we get larger, and can afford more things, it will help with retention.”

Roanoke-based accounting firm Brown Edwards has acquired longtime Richmond-based Mitchell Wiggins. (BizSense file)

Back in town for another acquisition, a Roanoke-based accounting firm is beefing up its Richmond presence once again.

Brown Edwards has acquired longtime Richmond-based Mitchell Wiggins. The deal closed today and brings six partners, 47 additional employees and two local offices into the Brown Edwards fold.

It comes less than two years after Brown Edwards’ previous effort to strengthen its Richmond ranks with the acquisition of Gregg & Bailey, an eight-person firm in Midlothian.

Jason Hartman

Jason Hartman, Brown Edwards’ CEO, said while the Gregg & Bailey deal gave the firm its first full-time flag in the area, the Mitchell Wiggins transaction kicks its local growth plan into another gear.

“Richmond is a market we’ve wanted to be in for a long time. In 2020, we got Gregg & Bailey to give us a physical presence. We immediately doubled the size of that office. It’s a big market and we think more critical mass will help serve us better.”

Brown Edwards now has 70 employees in the Richmond area and 400 firm-wide.

Mitchell Wiggins Managing Director David Reardon will lead Brown Edwards’ Richmond region operations. Thomas Puryear, a Mitchell Wiggins partner, will lead the Petersburg and Tri-Cities operations.

The firm will operate out of Mitchell Wiggins’ offices at 1802 Baybery Court in the West End and 100 Flank Road in Petersburg. It also has a client meeting location in Midlothian that opened as part of the Gregg & Bailey deal.

Discussions between the two sides began about two years ago.

“We weren’t necessarily looking to merge up into a firm but we decided to meet,” Reardon said. “Along the way we met with various partners and right away we could tell the cultural fit was in line with ours.”

He added, “It really came down for us to how we can best serve our clients and provide enhanced training and opportunities for our staff.”

Hartman said the courtship between the two firms began with Brown Edwards making the initial approach.

“Probably two thirds of that time was spent just getting to know each other and each other’s firms,” Hartman said. “As we went along in that process we really didn’t hit any bumps. It just felt right.”

The deal marks an end to the Mitchell Wiggins name, which will be retired in favor of the Brown Edwards brand. The firm started in Richmond in 1944, before expanding to Petersburg in the ’60s and later to Fredericksburg for a time.

David Reardon

Reardon, who joined the firm in 1989 after graduating from James Madison University and became managing partner in July, said its bittersweet to see the name become history but that it’s necessary for the firm to continue its growth.

“We’re a 77-year-old firm. It’s really hard to retire the name but it’s about providing an enhanced future for our clients and our staff,” he said.

The Mitchell Wiggins pact was Brown Edwards’ ninth acquisition since 2017. It will bring the firm’s annual revenue to around $70 million and Hartman said the growth streak is likely to continue.

“We are interested and we’ve had some other firms express interest to at least have a conversation,” he said.

Hartman said the opportunities for acquisitions are fueled mainly by two factors. One is a generational shift of longtime CPA partners aging out and looking for a succession plan.

“The other thing that’s more intense now is the staffing shortage,” he said. “Big or small, every firm is just having horrendous trouble retaining people. Entry level hiring isn’t bad but retention beyond two or three years is really difficult.

“We hope that as we get larger, and can afford more things, it will help with retention.”

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