Grant Thornton UK CEO to depart amid Patisserie flap

Grant Thornton UK LLP said Monday that its CEO, Sacha Romanovitch, will not stand for re-election for a second term and will step down after a successor is appointed before the end of this year, as the firm weathers an accounting scandal at one of its clients, bakery shop chain Patisserie Holdings.

Romanovitch has been one of the few female leaders of a major accounting firm in the U.K. Her departure comes amid greater scrutiny of auditing firms in Britain. The Competition and Markets Authority is considering breaking up firms and separating consulting practices from audit practices, after high-profile accounting scandals erupted at several of the largest London-based firms (see Pressure mounts on Big Four auditors as U.K. starts probe). Last week, the CFO of one of Grant Thornton’s clients, Patisserie Holdings, owners of the Patisserie Valerie bake shop chain, was arrested and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation into accounting irregularities at the company (see Patisserie accounting woes bring chairman’s warning to life).

Romanovitch is nearing the end of a four-year term helming the U.K. member firm of Grant Thornton. She and the firm made no mention of the Patisserie accounting scandal in Monday’s announcement about her departure. “It has been a privilege and an honor to lead this firm,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of what we have achieved in the market, with our people and with our clients, breaking the mold in so many ways. We have attracted so many talented people and great clients to our firm due to our purpose and what we stand for. As we enter the next phase of our plans, following discussions with Grant Thornton’s board, we have agreed that the time is right for a new CEO to take the firm forward. I will be working to support a smooth transition to our next CEO, focusing on continuing to deliver sustainable value for our clients through our diverse and talented team.”

Grant Thornton UK CEO Sacha Romanovitch
Sacha Romanovitch, incoming chief executive officer of Grant Thornton UK LLP, speaks during the Grant Thornton business themed debate at the British Museum in London, U.K., on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. The pound has been declining before the U.K.'s most uncertain election in a generation, that risks pushing parties into protracted negotiations to form a government. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sacha Romanovitch

Romanovitch will be stepping aside once the firm identifies a successor before the end of calendar 2018 after an election process.

Ed Warner, chair of the Partnership Oversight Board at Grant Thornton UK, promised a smooth transition to whoever is chosen to lead the firm. “Following discussions with Sacha, the board has agreed that a new CEO is the logical next step to create long term sustainable profits for the firm,” he stated. “We are grateful for the innovative and inspiring work Sacha has done and will work with her to support the newly elected CEO and ensure a smooth transition.”

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