Accountant driving M&A deals

As a youngster growing up near Potterton in the north-east, Mike Brown had only one career ambition.

“I wanted to be the tractor driver whose job was to cut the roadside verges,” he said.

Mr Brown, the son of a haulage contractor, has always been fascinated by lorries and other motor vehicles.

He said: “I found myself working in a garage with a lot of haulage contractors when I was a boy.

“I was a lorry driver aged 17 when I was still at Ellon Academy and continued driving part-time when studying accountancy at Aberdeen College of Commerce.”

The main attraction of accountancy for Mr Brown was that he enjoyed working with figures.

“I took an O Grade in accounting in my sixth year at school and something just clicked for me.”

After leaving college, Mr Brown joined accountancy firm Whinney Murray in 1977 and worked there for several years during which time he became a qualified chartered accountant.

He then moved to energy giant BP, where he was latterly head of pipeline and facilities accounting.

After three years at BP, he was headhunted to join accountancy firm Ernst and Whinney in 1986.

Mr Brown was senior manager of audit and corporate services at the business, which later became Ernst and Young (E&Y).

But, in 1990, he decided the time was right to strike out on his own with two colleagues because he felt that there was no likelihood of him becoming a partner in the near future at E&Y.

Along with E&Y colleagues Bobby Anderson and Sheena Anderson, he set up Anderson Anderson and Brown (AA&B).

Mr Brown holds no grudges against his former employer: “Ernst and Young provided the momentum for us to go and do our own thing.

“It’s probably the biggest favour I have ever received.”

AA&B started out with a workforce of just five people and had turnover of about £600,000 in its first year.

The firm has seen enormous expansion in the past 18 years, however.

There are now 12 partners and 139 staff, while turnover in the current financial year is projected to be nearly £13million.

Mr Brown said: “I never thought it would become this size.

“We just wanted to set up something that was a quality organisation providing quality services.”

One of the highest-profile areas that AA&B is involved in is mergers and acquisitions.

Last year, the firm advised on 44 deals worth a total of £430million.

This is expected to rise to 50 deals worth about £650million this year, however, Mr Brown forecast that there would likely be a fall in the number of merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions nationwide during 2009.

He said: “We are cushioned to a degree in the north-east by the oil and gas industry, but the lack of liquidity in the market is beginning to have an impact on transactions even here.

“Money is extremely tight throughout the UK.

“Every bank has some money to lend, but they are being very selective in the deals they will support. They have more opportunities than they can finance.

“I think it will be at least mid-2009 before we see a change in the current banking landscape.

“But I do not think we will ever see a return to some of the aggressive bank lending available before the credit crunch.”

Mr Brown forecast that venture capitalists and private equity would have a significant part to play in filling the financing gap left by the banks.

He said that the drying up of bank lending facilities would be a challenge for his firm, but he still expects AA&B to be able to get the best funding outcome for its clients.

It was September when Mr Brown was honoured at the 11th annual Scottish Business Insider Deals and Dealmakers Awards.

The 51-year-old was named dealmaker of the year for his “tremendous” track record.

He said the award had come as a surprise, adding: “It is the biggest award that AA&B has received and is recognition for the effort and ability of everyone at the firm, not just me.

“As a result of the award, our name has become better known throughout Scotland.

“But, even before this recognition, in the last three years we completed more deals than any other accountancy firm in Scotland and initiated more deals as well in that time.”

So what does the future hold for AA&B?

Mr Brown said: “We have a vision.

“Our target is to have a firm with new landmark premises in the west end of Aberdeen, with a headcount of 200 and fee income of around £15million annually by 2011.”

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