Long-established Birmingham accountants Wenham Major could be about to be sold off after entering administration, it has been claimed.
Trade magazine Accountancy Age insisted that corporate restructuring specialist Vantis had been appointed as administrator and was hopeful of concluding a sale.
The appointment is understood to have followed a meeting between Wenham Major's joint owner Ammar Azam and the firm's bank HBOS.
RSM Bentley Jennison is thought to be one firm involved in the bidding although a number of other potential suitors could also be in play.
The deal is said to involve Wenham's core audit and accounting businesses, although staff from the private client and tax side may also be included. Separate interest is believed to have been shown in Wenham’s business recovery arm.
It is reported that staff at the practice received a letter from the firm’s joint owner Ammar Azam terminating their employment.
Mr Azam has not been available for comment.
Accountancy Age said that despite what had happened, it was understood that staff and the administrators were continuing to work normally.
An investigation was launched into alleged "financial irregularities" at a subsidiary of the firm earlier this month.
The practice revealed it was conducting an inquiry into its private client tax planning operation run by executive chairman John Joyce, a well-known figure in the city’s accountancy sector.
He has been unavailable for comment during the past fortnight and it is thought he may be in hospital suffering with a stress-related complaint.
He was believed to be facing proceedings by the firm as a result of the inquiry’s preliminary findings.
The inquiry was said to be internal and was being conducted with the help of lawyers and forensic accountants. Neither the police nor accountancy regulators were involved at that stage.
Based in Cornwall Street, the firm – full name Wenham Major Global Capital Partners – is one of the largest and oldest accountancy practices in the country. It is also one of the fastest-growing and has offices in London’s Mayfair, Dubai and New York.
Mr Azam, who owns the business jointly with Mr Joyce, said earlier this month that he had discovered what he claimed were "financial irregularities" at subsidiary business Wenham Major Private Client.
Private Client operates as a tax planning business on behalf of a small number of wealthy clients, the majority in London.
The subsidiary business was established by Mr Joyce and operated and controlled by him with three staff. The alleged irregularities came to light after Mr Joyce became ill and asked Mr Azam to look after the Private Client operation.
In a statement on May 1 Wenham Major said: "John Joyce is currently the primary subject of the company’s investigations.
"As a result of preliminary findings, it is the intention of the company to issue proceedings against John Joyce. John Joyce’s staff are cooperating fully."
The statement went on to say the main Wenham Major accountancy business, headed by Mr Azam, was in no way implicated in the inquiry.
What has happened in the interim is uncertain and the fate of the company’s 200 staff is unknown although if the business is sold then their jobs may be safe.
Wenham said at the time of the statement that it continued "to operate in a professional manner and is not the subject of any suspicion".
It added: "The accounting practice is profitable, growing and is meeting its operational and financial targets."
Mr Azam would not disclose the extent of the financial irregularities but it is understood that clients’ money is not involved.
Wenham Major Private Clients arranged tax advice on a fee basis and did not handle funds.
Wenham Major was founded in Cherry Street, Birmingham, by Alfred Ebenezer Wenham in 1867. Mr Joyce joined the practice in 2003 as chief executive and together with Mr Azam took it over in a management buy-out in 2006.
Since then it made a number of acquisitions, opened offices in Dubai and New York and more than doubled its annual fee income to in excess of £22 million.