Accenture originated as the business and technology consulting division of accounting firm Arthur Andersen. The division’s origins are in a 1953 feasibility study for General Electric. GE asked Arthur Andersen to automate payroll processing and manufacturing at GE’s Appliance Park facility near Louisville, Kentucky. Arthur Andersen recommended installation of a UNIVAC I computer and printer, which resulted in the first commercially owned computer installation in the United States in 1954. Joe Glickauf was Arthur Andersen’s project leader responsible for the payroll processing automation project. Now considered to be the father of computer consulting, Glickauf headed Arthur Andersen’s Administrative Services division for 10 years.
Splitting from Arthur Andersen
Through the 1990s, there was increasing tension between Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen. Andersen Consulting was upset that it was paying Arthur Andersen up to 15% of its profits each year (a condition of the 1989 split was that the more profitable unit – AA or AC – paid the other this sum), while at the same time Arthur Andersen was competing with Andersen Consulting through its own newly established business consulting service line called Arthur Andersen Business Consulting. This dispute came to a head in 1998 when Andersen Consulting claimed breach of contract against Andersen Worldwide Société Coopérative (AWSC) and Arthur Andersen. Andersen Consulting put the 15% transfer payment for that year and future years into escrow and issued a claim for breach of contract. In August 2001, as a result of the conclusion of arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce, Andersen Consulting broke all contractual ties with AWSC and Arthur Andersen. As part of the arbitration settlement, Andersen Consulting paid the sum held in escrow (then $1.2 billion) to Arthur Andersen, and was required to change its name, resulting in the entity being renamed Accenture.
Perhaps most telling about who had “won” the decision was that four hours after the arbitrator made his ruling, Arthur Andersen CEO Jim Wadia suddenly resigned. Industry analysts and business school professors alike viewed the event as a complete victory for Andersen Consulting. Jim Wadia would provide insight on his resignation years later at a Harvard Business school case activity about the split. It turned out that the Arthur Andersen board passed a resolution saying he had to resign, if he didn’t get at least an incremental $4 billion (either through negotiation or via the arbitrator decision) for the consulting practice to split off; hence his quick resignation once the decision was announced.
Accounts vary on why the split occurred – executives on both sides of the split cite greed and arrogance on the part of the other side, and executives on the Andersen Consulting side maintained breach of contract when Arthur Andersen created a second consulting group, AABC (Arthur Andersen Business Consulting) that began to compete directly with Andersen Consulting in the marketplace. Many of the AABC firms were bought out by other consulting companies in 2002, most notably, Hitachi Consulting and KPMG Consulting, which later changed its name to BearingPoint.
In January 1, 2001 Andersen Consulting adopted its current name, “Accenture”. The word “Accenture” is supposedly derived from “Accent on the future”. Although a marketing consultancy was tasked with finding a new name for the company, the name “Accenture” was submitted by Kim Petersen, a Danish employee from the company’s Oslo, Norway office, as a result of an internal competition. Accenture felt that the name should represent its will to be a global consulting leader and high performer, and also intended that the name should not be offensive in any country in which Accenture operates.
Initial public offering
On July 19, 2001, Accenture offered initial public offering (IPO) at the price of $14.50 per share in New York Stock Exchange (NYSE); Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley served as its lead underwriters. Accenture stock closed the day at $15.17, with the day’s high at $15.25. On the first day of the IPO, Accenture raised nearly $1.7 billion.
In October 2002, the Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) identified Accenture as one of four publicly traded federal contractors that were incorporated in a tax haven country. The other three, unlike Accenture, were incorporated in the United States before they re-incorporated in a tax haven country, thereby lowering their U.S. taxes. Critics, most notably former CNN journalist Lou Dobbs, have panned Accenture’s incorporation in Bermuda because they viewed Accenture as having been a U.S.-based company trying to avoid U.S. taxes. The GAO itself did not characterize Accenture as having been a U.S.-based company; it stated that “prior to incorporating in Bermuda, Accenture was operating as a series of related partnerships and corporations under the control of its partners through the mechanism of contracts with a Swiss coordinating entity.”