published Friday, May 24th, 2013

Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter merges with Atlanta firm

Accounting merger

Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter

Founded: 1943

Location: Market Court building in downtown Chattanooga

Partners: Six

Staff: 65 employees

Mauldin & Jenkins

Founded: 1920

Locations: Atlanta, Albany, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Bradenton, Fla., Macon, Ga., Chattanooga

Partners: 45

Staff: 280 employees

One of Chattanooga's largest accounting firms will merge next week with the Atlanta-based Mauldin & Jenkins LLC.

Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter, LLC, a 70-year-old Chattanooga accounting firm with 65 employees, inked a deal Thursday to join Mauldin & Jenkins on June 1.

"We have very similar cultures and, while we have been approached by many other firms through the years, this seems to be the best fit for us and our future," said Casey Stuart, the managing member and one of the six partners in Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter who decided to merge with M&J.

Both accounting firms specialize in serving financial institutions, among other firms. Stuart said Hazlett, Lewis & Beiter audits about 40 area banks and credit unions. M&J audits more than 140 financial institutions across the South.

The combined firm will operate in Chattanooga under the Mauldin & Jenkins name and will be headed in Chattanooga by Warren McEwen, one of the partners in M&J. The Chattanooga office will be the sixth in the Southeast for M&J.

Donny Luker, general manager for M&J, said Hazlett, Lewis, & Bieter "is a proven successful firm that provides quality service to their clients" and will help the combined firm grow to $46 million in net fees. With the merger, M&J will employ 280 workers, including 45 partners.

"Together, we have a stronger and broader resource base from which to draw in order to provide services to our clients, and through the market expansion to offer more opportunities for our people and partners," Luker said in a statement. "The services we offer include a strong focus on traditional areas of audit and tax as well as many specialty areas like litigation support, healthcare reimbursement consulting, and business valuation services."

Stuart, who said all partners of Hazlett, Lewis, & Bieter will join M&J, said the combination will provide economies of scale and efficiency in buying and handling employee pay and benefits without jeopardizing the firm's individualized client focus. The Atlanta-based firm also will relocate several partners and staff to the Chattanooga area to enhance services. These partners and staff specialize in the governmental and banking areas.

"The combination of our two firms is a cultural, financial, and strategic fit," Luker said.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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