Investors Push Out Founder at Smart

There's no Smart at Smart, Says Bowman. (Subscribe here.)

James J. Smart, who founded the firm Smart & Associates as a sole owner in 1998 and expanded through creative acquisition to a 600-person firm with more than $100 million revenue, is out at Smart Business Advisory and Consulting, according to today's Bowman FirstAlert. Steve M. Samek replaces Smart as CEO-president.

Great Hill Partners, the private equity firm that bought 80% of the firm in May 2007, reportedly asked him to step down. Smart isn't upset. "That's private equity playbook 101. You replace the CEO who founded the firm with your own person," he told the Philadelphia Business Journal. "I'm proud of the organization I built and the people there. It's tough to leave. The next target would have been an IPO and that's still a long way off. This is a good time for a handoff. There's not as much acrimony as one would believe."

To get the firm to IPO, Bowman says, Samek will need a little more success than he's had since he was MP at Arthur Andersen. After AA folded, Samek became CEO-principal of Fulcrum Capital, a strategic and financial consulting and investment firm. For the past couple of years, Samek was CEO of Chicago-based UHY Advisors, a firm with similar issues to SBAC including moving into an IPO.

Samek, who lives in Chicago, will divide his time between SBAC's Devon, Pa., headquarters and the firm's Chicago and New York City offices. Smart, who has a five-year noncompete that runs through May 2012, is meeting with members of the local private equity community in hopes of running another business. He has little interest in re-entering the accounting profession. "I've done that," Smart says.