The Rag-to-Riches Story of Arthur Andersen

On May 30 in the year 1885, the founder of a large accounting firm was born in Illinois, USA. His name is Arthur Edward Andersen, the co-founder of Arthur Andersen LLP which used to be one of the top five biggest accounting firms in the world.

Andersen’s parents were immigrants from Norway. At 16, Arthur was orphaned. He worked as a mail boy during the day and continued his studies at night. In 1917, he graduated from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University with a degree in business. In 1908, he became the youngest Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Illinois at 23. Five years later, with Clarence Delaney, he bought out The Audit Company of Illinois to form Andersen, Delaney & Co., which became Arthur Andersen & Co. in 1913.

As a full professor at Northwestern University, he wrote a textbook titled The Complete Accounting Course. After his stint in teaching, he devoted his time in his professional accounting practice as well as writing other books such as Financial and Industrial Investigations (1924), The Major Problem Created by the Machine Age (1931), Duties and Responsibilities of the Comptroller (1934), The Future of our Economic System (1934), Present Day Problems Affecting the Presentation and Interpretation of Financial Statements (1935), A Layman Speaks (1941). At one time, he served as a director of the State Bank & Trust Co. and also as president and member of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University

Due to his honesty and dedication to quality of work, his accounting firm expanded over the years and after World War II, it had offices in most states with over a thousand employees. In 2002, the company surrendered its license as Certified Public Accountants due to its role as auditor of the bankrupt energy company Enron. Its other business components were taken over by Andersen Worldwide and Accenture.

Arthur died in January 10, 1947 at the age of 61.

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