Co-Founder of WithumSmith+Brown Passes at Age 84

(L-R) Withum Co-Founders Len Smith, the late Fred Withum & Ivan Brown

Fred Withum, 84, who co-founded Princeton, N.J.-based WithumSmith+Brown (FY19 net revenue of $223.3 million), has died, the firm announced.

Withum, considered a visionary within the profession, co-founded the firm in 1974 and retired in 1987. Withum was instrumental in shaping the firm’s three core pillars for commitment: clients, people and communities. Under his leadership, the firm held first-of-their-kind planning meetings and partner retreats in the 1970s to chart the firm’s future course.

“From our early years as a firm, Fred was instrumental in instilling in us the importance of client service, integrity, growth and community service,” says Len Smith, who co-founded the firm with Withum as well as Ivan Brown and Doug Sonier. “These principles have stayed with us for over 40 years and have become the foundation for the Withum Way. Fred was a big believer in planning, and often reminded us of a quote from Lewis Carroll, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.’”

Sonier adds, “Fred was a true entrepreneur who encouraged and supported each of us in expanding the firm’s footprint and services. The confidence he instilled and demonstrated – combined with measured risk-taking – were key components that contributed to the growth and success of the firm.”

Today, Withum is ranked No. 25 on the 2019 IPA 100 listing of the largest accounting firms in the country. Withum, with 15 offices, is an independent member of HLB, the global advisory and accounting network.

At a time when most firms did not acknowledge the importance of community involvement and work-life balance, Withum was a champion, the firm says.

“He encouraged us to join and actively participate in charitable and professional organizations. In addition, he advocated for providing pro-bono and reduced-fee services to not-for-profits, many with June 30 FYE, which was a win-win proposition,” Brown says. “A strong proponent of family involvement, Fred also encouraged us to carve out time to watch and participate – via coaching and similar activities – in our children’s lives.”

Withum also championed peer reviews. In 1977, Withum became one of the first non-national accounting firms to voluntarily participate in the AICPA peer review program that evaluates firm processes and procedures. Since then, Withum has successfully passed all 13 peer reviews conducted.

According to MP and CEO Bill Hagaman, this feat underscores one of Withum’s well-known quotes: “Our services are for sale. Our integrity is not.” Hagaman adds, “This truism still applies, as Withum team members continue to hold up the highest levels of values and ethics and expect the same from those with whom they work.”

Memorial contributions can be made in Withum’s honor to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, P.O. Box 1281, Quechee, VT 05059.

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