Chicago (Oct. 24, 2003) -- BDO Seidman simultaneously announced Thursday that maverick chairman and chief executive Denis Field has taken an indefinite leave of absence and that it has shuffled the makeup of its board of directors.

The shakeup reflects the growing movement in accounting firms toward more traditional services in response to two years of accounting scandals and strict new laws governing the profession.

“During the last two years there’s been unprecedented change happening in the accounting profession. That led the partnership to re-evaluate the makeup of the board and the governance of firm,” said BDO spokesman Jerry Walsh. “The focus of the accounting industry has shifted. There’s much more focus on the core assurance and SEC practices. These changes position the firm to succeed in that environment.”

The firm elected Jack Weisbaum, who previously served as vice chairman and special assistant to the chairman, to serve as the chairman of the board. Weisbaum and the board will oversee day-to-day operations in Field’s absence.

BDO appointed four additional new board members: Al Ferrara, the Northeast Business Line Leader for the Assurance practice and a member of the firm’s SEC Risk Management Committee, Lee Graul, the National SEC Director for BDO Seidman, tax partner Jeff Kane, and Wayne Kolins, National Assurance Director and a member and former chairman of BDO International’s accounting and auditing committee.

BDO said it also approved of a board resolution to develop amendments to the partnership agreement “that will allow for increased partner participation in board elections and firm leadership.”

“What you’re seeing is a case of back to future -- the accounting industry is more focused on its core assurance business. These changes by BDO reflect that,” Walsh added.

Walsh wouldn’t comment on Field’s sudden leave except to say that it is already in effect and that it was “indefinite.” Field was the youngest partner to be elected chairman and chief executive of the firm in January of 2000 at age 41. Prior to that, he served as leader of the firm’s national tax practice. The Chicago-based firm ranked 7th on the 2003 Accounting Today Top 100 Firms List with $353 million in revenue.

“Denis Field is such a significant person at Seidman; he’s the equivalent of Bill Gates at Microsoft,” industry consultant Allan D. Koltin, CEO of PDI Global said of the news. “I think you’re going see more of this in the next couple of years with the national firms.

“In the post-Enron/PCAOB world, national firms have completely changed their focus. What’s in today is traditional accounting, tax and auditing and what’s out is any of the so-called value-added consulting services. The skill set of Denis Field was as a leader and a visionary and what he brought to the table as chairman was the ability to recreate the firm and offer new value added services. The focus of most firms today is on looking for leadership, not with that skill set, but with a skill set that understands and caters to the PCAOB and the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley.”

Denis is as much as a corporate CEO as anyone I’ve seen at an accounting firm,” Koltin said. “My guess is he’ll ultimately leave BDO and wind up as the CEO of a substantial private or public company.”

-- Melissa Klein

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