Eide Bailly plans to merge with Wipfli in June to create one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the U.S., with annual revenue of more than $314 million and 2,327 partners and associates.

The combined firm will be known as EB Wipfli. Pending regulatory approval under Hart-Scott-Rodino Act rules, the firms expect the merger to take effect on June 1. The combined firm will serve more than 70,000 clients from 41 offices across the West and Midwest, along with two offices in India. EB Wipfli will provide a wide range of audit, tax, accounting, consulting, and professional advisory services to public and private companies across the U.S. and internationally.

Fargo, N.D.-based Eide Bailly ranked 24th on Accounting Today’s list of the Top 100 Firms, while Milwaukee-based Wipfli ranked 26th.

Under the agreement, Eide Bailly managing partner and CEO Jerry Topp will become chairman of EB Wipfli, while Wipfli managing partner and CEO Rick Dreher would retain his current title.

They said in a joint interview that the two firms had been in talks about a merger for about a year.Rumors have been swirling this week that a deal was imminent (see Eide Bailly Expected to Merge with Wipfli).

“A lot of the conversation was precipitated by what’s going on in the profession,” said Topp. “The top 100 firms, so to speak, are looking to combine forces and provide more resources for their clients. Rick and I started talking about what we would look like, what resources we would provide, and what firms we would be competing with in the future.”

He added that the combined firm would be competing with the Big Four in some markets, with regional firms in other markets and with local firms in smaller markets.

“Both firms were looking to expand their geography and services,” said Dreher. “The combined firm has more resources and the economics to allow us to do that. That’s a big part of why we’re so excited about the combination. We get some industry niches that we don’t have, and they get some services they don’t have. The combination makes a ton of sense.”

He noted that Wipfli will be able to enhance its health care and financial institutions niches through the combination, along with manufacturing and distribution services. His firm will also be able to add Eide Bailly’s niches in agriculture and oil and gas.

The two firms worked out the merger without outside advisors because they both have M&A experience. “Both firms have done a significant number of mergers for the last 30 years or so that allowed us to get to the size where we are,” said Dreher.

They are in the process of filing the paperwork for Hart-Scott-Rodino approval and he anticipates they will know by February when the merger will go through so they can “button up” the deal. So far, both clients and staff have been reacting positively to the merger. Dreher and Topp do not anticipate any layoffs and say their intention is to expand the combined firm.

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