Energetic and entrepreneurial from the start, David Berdon founded the firm in 1917 with just his assistant and later partner Joseph Sandler. With a visionary’s eye for opportunity, Berdon answered an ad for a bookkeeper by the young, family-owned Catholic Book Publishing Company. At the meeting, he told the founder of the company "if you need a bookkeeper, you need an accountant." There began a business relationship that lasted for generations and the tone was set for Berdon’s early growth and prominence as advisors to family businesses.
As New York of the 1920’s roared with economic expansion, low inflation and high employment, and engineering feats like the opening of the Holland Tunnel, so did the success of David Berdon & Co. With a growing firm, Berdon decided to take office space at the colorful Broadway Chambers building at 277 Broadway — which in 1992 would be declared a landmark. This was the era of speakeasies, massive Broadway shows and a percolating stock market, and a New York Times help wanted ad placed by Berdon attests to the dynamism of the period. With family business as the core of the practice, Berdon also becomes an important factor in the retail chain store business and guaranteed mortgage field.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s took a heavy toll on businesses of all types and, plucking opportunity from crisis, insolvencies became an important sector of the firm’s practice. Under the direction of Irving Kuller, Berdon became one of the first accounting firms to introduce a litigation support group. A pattern was set for identifying and maximizing new market opportunities. Despite a decade-long sluggish economy, the firm needed more space and moved to one of the “new” skyscrapers rising in the city at 1450 Broadway.
By the 1940’s, David Berdon had decided to spend all his time as an active investor and became very successful as one of the earliest corporate takeover entrepreneurs. Navigating smoothly through transition, Maurice Preville, a visionary in the David Berdon mold, assumed the reins as managing partner.
In keeping with Berdon’s entrepreneurial approach, Preville introduced the then unheard of concept of accountant specialization. This was the forerunner of today’s professional concentrations in such areas as state and local taxation, trusts and estates, and international tax. It was an approach that made Berdon an early standout firm in the profession.
With the Depression and World War II a memory, Manhattan is more and more the center of the business world and David Berdon & Co. settled into East Side digs at 511 Fifth Avenue. The accent is on modern with the rise of the United Nations building and construction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and other highway projects. It is the era of “country club marketing,” where accounting professionals earned their referrals through membership in various clubs and associations.
Throughout the 50’s, under the leadership of managing partners Norman Yellin and David Zack, the firm solidifies its reputation as leading advisors to family/closely held businesses, the leaders of those businesses, and their family members. Within this realm is an increasingly diversified group that now includes manufacturers, architects and engineers, retailers, and advertising agencies — this being the heyday of the big Madison Avenue ad agencies.
In 1962, future managing partner Stanley Freundlich joins the firm. Swiftly rising within the organization, Freundlich recognizes the opportunities at hand in developing relationships with real estate companies and New York’s real estate family empires. In developing real estate relationships, Freundlich blends an understanding of business, family, accounting, tax, and law to develop sophisticated approaches that take the client’s whole financial picture in mind.
Once again, the firm is in need of additional space and finds a new home at 415 Madison Avenue. Yellin and Zack more and more take on the “trusted advisor” role as business owners turn to them for advice well beyond issues in accounting and tax. Through Stanley Freundlich’s leadership, the firm is rapidly becoming a major force in real estate and, by 1980, the partnership is restructured to include Freundlich as the third managing partner.
Freundlich introduces a “think tank” approach to client service — regular meetings with business leaders to discuss planning, strategy, changes in direction, anticipated needs. This practice is combined with his advocacy to meet clients on a social level to better understand the family issues that are often tied to business needs. The head of a real estate family later noted that although Freundlich would consistently "kill him" on the tennis court, the social aspect served to strengthen their relationship.
In 1987, Yellin and Zack retire and Freundlich becomes the sole managing partner. He encourages a collaborative environment, one in which all levels and departments work as a team accessing the specialized expertise within the firm to help clients. The firm embarks on a policy to give young professionals broad exposure by working with a variety of clients across diverse industry lines.
Recognizing the growing need for firms to market themselves in new ways, in 1988, Berdon becomes one of the first accounting firms to hire a marketing professional to help execute Freundlich’s plans for growth and diversification.
In the 1990s, Berdon launches an aggressive initiative to diversify the practice across an array of niche specializations. Law firms become the initial focus, followed by growth into such areas as hotels, restaurants, manufacturing and distribution, advertising, architects and engineering, and healthcare, to name a few. In 1994, the firm introduces a claims administration service — further extending the reach and capabilities of the growing law firm niche.
Bucking the trend of merger mania throughout the accounting industry, the firm seeks to grow by adding specialized expertise, and in 1996, adds an entertainment division when members of Robbins, Spielman, Slayton & Halfon come on board. In that same year, carefully pursuing mergers with firms that blend well with the Berdon culture, Schwaeber Sloane Schulman & Co. of Great Neck, Long Island, merges with the firm. Early in 1997, Berdon further expands its presence on Long Island, as Schaeffer, Schaeffer & Elio of Valley Stream, Long Island, joins the Berdon family. The two Long Island offices quickly relocate to a single, larger office at One Jericho Plaza, Jericho, where the firm’s Long Island office remains to this day.
The 90’s also sees explosive growth in practice areas as well. The personal wealth consulting practice extends to fiduciary accounting, business management, and trust and estate planning. The litigation practice diversifies to include valuations, damages, forensic and fraud investigations, and SEC and Securities matters, with Berdon partners serving as expert witnesses in high-profile matters. 1997 also sees the launch of the firm’s first website.
2001 is a major transition year as the firm bursts its doors again and relocates its headquarters to the completely renovated 360 Madison Avenue — doubling the size of its previous location. The name changes from David Berdon & Co. LLP to Berdon LLP and a new logo is introduced to reflect the growth and diversity of the firm. Building on strength, the noted real estate accounting firm Grossman, Tuchman & Shah LLP joins the firm.
To further complement its expertise in international taxation, in 2003 Berdon joins a global association of separate and independently owned and managed accountancy firms. This move allows clients to access talent and resources worldwide.
Recognizing sweeping changes in technology, in 2005, the firm relaunches www.berdonllp.com with a design that gives visitors a 360 degree perspective on our people, services, and the way we do business. In 2007, Berdon celebrated its 90th anniversary with an Alumni Homecoming Party attended by nearly 80 former “Berdonites” from as far back as the 1950’s. In 2010, the claims team becomes Berdon Claims Administration LLC, a wholly owned affiliate of Berdon LLP.
2010 also sees the launch of eCast — short video segments tackling issues in real estate, tax, and wealth management. Berdon videos are just one of the many ways the firm is leveraging technology and the use of mobile devices. By 2012, beyond such electronic publications as Evisor (for tax and other developments) and Practice Made Perfect (geared to law firm management), the firm has a growing presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media. While Berdon partners have always made themselves available to clients, the introduction of BlackBerrys and iPhones makes access easier than ever before.
On January 1, 2012, executive partners Mark Bosswick and Stuart Kotler, each with the firm for more than 25 years, become co-managing partners, and Stanley Freundlich takes on the role of managing partner emeritus. Shortly afterwards, Kenneth H. Kranz, CPA, PC, tax advisors to high net-worth individuals, merges into Berdon.
As the firm continues to grow, so does its Human Resources program. With an eye on developing future leaders, the firm expands its recruitment efforts on college campuses. Berdon adds a variety of internal events, such as a wellness fair, ice cream days, flu vaccinations, and “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” The firm hosts legendary holiday, after-tax-season, and summer parties to thank its team members for their devotion and outstanding client service.
In July 2013, the firm became a member of TIAG® (The International Accounting Group), an alliance of more than 115 independent accounting firms across the globe. With this strategic move, Berdon also gains access to TIAG’s sister alliance of independent law firms, TAGLaw®. In November 2013, Beck and Company LLC merged into Berdon — adding a further layer of expertise to its substantial real estate practice.
In December 2013, eCast evolved into 2MinutesOn - brief, to-the-point videos featuring a Berdon advisor offering ideas, insights, and take-aways on current issues in tax, personal wealth, law and other areas.
April of 2014 saw the unveiling of a new client-centric and content-driven website using cutting-edge design and technology to deliver information to visitors, as well as a new mobile website. The new site came on the heels of a total rebrand by the Firm, which introduced a new look emphasizing the "DO" aspect of the Firm's name in a new tagline, "Listen. Solve. Do.".
The 2014 Vault survey of the top 50 accounting firms ranked Berdon in the top 10 in 10 quality of life categories, among them Relationships with Supervisors, Satisfaction, Firm Leadership, Hours, Diversity, and Compensation, where Berdon ranked first. The survey also notes the "tremendous team-like culture," "good work/life balance" and "open-door policy." These are the tangible results of ongoing programs to build a culture based on the needs of today’s professionals and clients.
In late 2014 and early 2015, the Firm launched several new service lines:
In 2017, we will look back on 10 decades of being our clients’ trusted advisors. At the same time, and as we have always done for our clients, we will continue to look forward — helping you prepare for the uncertainties and the opportunities that lie ahead for:
The Individual and Family
Through it all, one thing will never change. Our commitment to providing you with the kind of advice and service you’ve come to expect from Berdon. We promise that we will continue to Listen. Solve. Do.