DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter

L.A. County’s two largest accounting firms have once again traded places for this year’s List of the top 50 accounting firms.

After swapping the top two spots between 1995 and 1996, Deloitte & Touche has once again beat out Arthur Andersen LLP for the position of top accounting firm in the county.

“For the last five or six years, we have had a very distinct program to build our practice in Southern California,” said John Cardis, vice chairman of Deloitte & Touche and managing partner of its L.A. office.

Accounting firms are ranked by the number of accounting professionals they employ in L.A. County. Deloitte & Touche added 67 people to its local staff since last year’s List, for a total of 806.

Cardis attributed Deloitte’s growth to the company’s specialized practices in seven separate industries, as well as its growing tax and auditing businesses.

Representatives of Arthur Andersen, whose accounting staff dipped slightly this year, said their company is also growing.

“We are experiencing substantial growth in the specialty consulting area,” said Dick Poladian, managing partner of Arthur Andersen’s Southern California offices. He said that area is growing by 25 percent to 30 percent a year.

Poladian said Arthur Andersen’s dip can be attributed to improved computer technology and simply the time of year. By Aug. 31, Poladian said, the company’s L.A. office will have 100 new employees.

The rankings of the rest of the Big Six accounting firms in L.A. County remained unchanged from the last two years.

Ernst & Young LLP came in third, with 732 accounting professionals locally; Coopers & Lybrand was fourth with 574 local accounting professionals; KPMG Peat Marwick LLP was fifth (435); and Price Waterhouse LLP sixth (311).

This year’s List had a new entry at No. 8 with Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, which had not previously reported its numbers to the Business Journal.

Gelfand, the business management division of Coopers & Lybrand, has about 250 employees worldwide, with 184 of them in L.A. County. Gelfand’s clients which include athletes, musicians, agents and authors number about 100 worldwide.

Mitra Mehanian, vice president of marketing for Gelfand, attributed Gelfand’s size to the growing popularity of personal business management.

“I would say that it’s a growing field because more and more artists are realizing that if they want to maximize their income and their savings, they should really look at business management,” Mehanian said, adding that the field is also attracting more athletes.

One of the biggest gainers on this year’s List was American Express Tax and Business Services, which moved up from a No. 22 position on last year’s List to a No. 14 position this year.

Woodland Hills-based American Express tax services, a subsidiary of American Express Co.’s travel services corporation, added 15 accounting professionals in L.A. County since last year, bringing its number of local accounting professionals to 60.

Les Shapiro, a managing director with American Express and practice manager of its Woodland Hills office, attributed the firm’s growth to a large number of acquisitions in 1996.

“The Woodland Hills office alone had five CPA firm acquisitions,” he said.

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