Some times no news means good news. Sometimes it just means no news. And other times, it means something else.

In the case of American Express Tax & Business Services, it is looking suspiciously like the third scenario.

We haven't heard much from AmEx TBS in recent months -- until this week. Except what we heard from TBS this week didn't come from TBS. It came from H&R Block, in the form of a press release saying that Block was launching a new business.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based tax prep giant announced a new business employing CPAs to serve the needs of the owners of small businesses with 25 or fewer employees. The venture, known as H&R Block Small Business Resources, plans to offer services such as tax preparation and planning, payroll processing and bookkeeping, and financial advisory services.

And Block is kicking off its new entity with the purchase of 11 office locations from AmEx TBS. The offices are in Tucson, Ariz.; Rancho Palos Verdes and Walnut Creek, Calif.; Fort Wayne and Rochester, Ind.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Wakefield, Mass.; Livonia, Mich.; Omaha, Neb.; Dublin, Ohio; and Roanoke, Va.

So far, there's been no word about the sale from AmEx's end, and a call to AmEx from one of our reporters about the sale did not get a response.

All in all, it's a big a contrast to the heyday of AmEx's late-1990s buying spree, when the firm made waves within the accounting profession with its rapid-fire acquisition of the non-attest assets of several high-profile firms, such as Checkers, Simon & Rosner and Altschuler, Melvoin & Glasser in Chicago and New York's Goldstein Golub Kessler & Co.

Coincidentally, you may recall, Block executive vice president and chief operating officer Jeff Yabuki headed AmEx TBS as its CEO when TBS was still on a buying binge. He left AmEx to join Block in 1999 after more than a decade at AmEx.

Block said that it plans to "aggressively build" the Small Business Resources network over the next five to seven years, opening as many as 1,000 offices in markets throughout the United States. It will be interesting to see if any of those future locations come from AmEx TBS.

Guess we'll just have to wait and see what AmEx says - or doesn't say...

Note: Shortly after the original version of this column and the related newswire item appeared, an AmEx spokesperson suddenly e-mailed us to let us know that, "The sale aligns with our strategy in American Express Tax & Business Services to focus on national accounting, tax and business advisory practices for middle market firms and high net worth individuals," and that the acquired offices "are very small offices staffed by an average of 11 employees in each."

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