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In recent weeks, Ernst & Young, the country’s seventh-largest private company and one of the world’s largest assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, relocated its Woodland Hills operations to Westlake Village.

Ernst & Young representatives said increased demand for professional services from the biotech, real estate, and technology sectors in the Conejo Valley prompted the move. In addition, many of the company’s regional employees already lived in Ventura County.

“Many of our clients are located in the growing Ventura County/Conejo Valley area,” said Bill Browning, head of Ernst & Young’s Greater Los Angeles area practice, in an e-mail interview with the Business Times. “Our goal as a firm is to provide the highest quality service to our clients, and to be as responsive as possible, we made the choice to relocate near them in Westlake Village. We’re excited to be the first and only Big Four firm in the area.”

Ernst & Young’s office in Thousand Oaks opened for business Sept. 22, but it isn’t the first “Big Four” firm to call the Tri-Counties home.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young and KPMG are widely known as the “Big Four,” the four largest international accounting and professional services firms. They audit the majority of publicly traded companies as well as many private companies. This group was once referred to as the “Big Eight” but was renamed to the “Big Five” and then the “Big Four” after a series of mergers.

Deloitte & Touche’s Oxnard location operated from 1985 to 1991 and Arthur Andersen closed its Santa Barbara office years before that.

“Haskins & Sells came up to Oxnard in the mid-70s,” said Jeff Hass, a partner at Farber Hass and Hurley in Camarillo. “They had a full office with 30 or 40 people, but then they sold the practice in 1980. They didn’t think the area fit into their idea of ‘Big 8 culture.’ They came back in 1985, after Haskins & Sells merged with Deloitte & Touche, but left again in 1991 because they were consolidating and wanted to be in an area where they could audit larger companies.”

Hass, who spent four years at Deloitte & Touche’s Oxnard location before it closed in 1991, said he doesn’t foresee Ernst & Young leaving the Tri-Counties anytime soon.

“It makes economic sense for Ernst and Young,” Hass said. “It’s cheaper here than in Woodland Hills and they can be closer to their Santa Barbara clients. I think now that companies like Amgen and Bear [Stearns] are in the area and the 101 corridor is expanding the way it is, even more big CPA audit firms will be looking at the area. We’ll see a lot of them coming back.”
Ernst & Young is the auditor of several regionally based companies, including Amgen, Teledyne and others.

“Our clients are in the biotech, real estate, financial services and technology sectors,” Browning said. “While our client list is confidential, we serve 93 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies and 63 percent of Russell 3000 companies in the Greater Los Angeles area. That data is applicable to our Ventura County practice as well.”

Teledyne Technologies is an international conglomerate and one of the biggest public companies in the Tri-Counties and Amgen is an international biotechnology company based in Thousand Oaks. The largest Ventura County private employer, Amgen also is the largest independent biotech firm, with some 6,800 employees in the Tri-Counties.

When Ernst & Young’s lease expired on its 10,000-square-foot office at 21800 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills, the firm chose to sign a five-year lease in Westlake Village that includes approximately 7,500 square feet of office space at 2931 Townsgate Road at Westgate Park Place.

Linda Whalen, Ernst & Young’s communication leader for the Pacific Southwest area, said although the new office in Westlake Village is 15 miles from the old location in Woodland Hills, most of its approximately 65 employees are happy with the move.

“Most of the employees are already Ventura-based,” Whalen said. “Virtually everyone came over [from Woodland Hills]. They’ve been saying they only have six-minute commutes now. They’re definitely happy about the move.”
Browning echoed his employees’ happiness over the short commutes.

“We’re very excited to become part of the Westlake business community, which has warmly welcomed us,” Browning said.

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