The election, conducted by the Electoral Reform Society, was on the basis of a single transferable vote on four candidates, each of whom sent a manifesto to the 700 partners and campaigned in a fiercely fought battle that has dominated the life of the firm for much of the year.
Although partners in British accounting firms have voted before on the choice of a new chairman or senior partner, a single nominee is typically selected in advance by an inner circle. Mr Smith, head of the London office, beat Richard Stone, Adrian Lamb and Alan McFetrich. The candidates were whittled down from a list of 80 by a 35-strong nomination committee.
Mr Stone, head of corporate finance and a strong candidate, was widely seen to have been handicapped by the repercussions of his acceptance of the job of administrator of Polly Peck. He was fined pounds 1,000 and reprimanded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants late last year for a breach of ethical guidelines in accepting appointment as administrator to Polly Peck International when Coopers had undertaken other work for the company and its chairman, Asil Nadir.
Mr Smith said the election had produced an 'excellent debate within the firm, an opportunity for all the partners to identify the issues the firm faces'.