Kenneth Leventhal, CPA, founder of one of the largest CPA firms in the country and a noted philanthropist, died on May 8 at the age of 91.

Leventhal founded Kenneth Leventhal & Co. with his wife, Elaine Otter, in their apartment in 1949. As he expanded the firm, he focused on specializing in real estate, and moved to Century City in 1965. Leventhal & Co. developed a reputation as a workout specialist, advising some of the biggest names in real estate, including Donald Trump. By the time the firm was merged into Ernst & Young in 1995, it had become the ninth largest CPA firm in the U.S., with nearly $200 million in revenues. Leventhal retired in 1999.

Born in Cincinnati, Leventhal served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and attended the University of California Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill, earning a BS in Business Administration and Accounting. He became a CPA in 1948.

Leventhal served on the Council of the American Institute of CPAs, and as director of the California Society of CPAs.

A strong believer in education, Leventhal was a leading benefactor of the University of Southern California and received an honorary doctorate in 2000. In 1996 the university renamed its accounting school the Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting in recognition of a $25 million gift from Leventhal and his wife. A USC trustee, he chaired the school's Building On Excellence fund-raising campaign, which began in 1993 with an initial goal of raising $1 billion. When it concluded in 2003, it had raised $2.85 billion.

"Ken Leventhal was one of the giants on whose shoulders we now stand," said William W. Holder, dean of the USC Leventhal School of Accounting. "Through his intellect, energy, integrity and industriousness, he created one of largest and most successful professional service firms in the nation."  

When asked why he became an accountant, Leventhal noted that, as a 9-year-old selling newspapers, he learned that his boss planned to take a correspondence course in accounting and go into business for himself.  All it took to get started was a pencil, his boss told him. "I figured that for a nickel, I could be my own boss," Leventhal explained, "and I never changed my mind."

Leventhal is survived by his wife of 63 years, Elaine Otter, his sons Robert and Ross (Mary Jo), granddaughter Emma, brother Henley, and a niece and nephews.

Services will be held on Thursday, May 10, at 2 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting at USC.

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