Kaufman Rossin co-founder James Kaufman dies

James R. Kaufman, a co-founder of Miami-based accounting firm Kaufman Rossin, died at his Coconut Grove home over the weekend, at the age of 88.

He founded the accounting firm in 1962 with Jay Rossin, his fraternity brother from the University of Florida. Kaufman was living in Georgia working for a client in the real estate and tobacco business when he asked Rossin, who was already working in public accounting, to start a firm together.

“So I said ‘Let’s go into business,’ and Jay, a bit more deliberate in his actions than I, said ‘let me think about it,’ ” Kaufman wrote in 2022 in a story reflecting on the firm’s 60-year anniversary. “He had a job, and a private book of business on the side that was worth more than mine. But still he agreed, and we took the first steps toward building a place where we could make a living and enjoy coming to work.”

Kaufman Rossin started with a small office on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami before moving to 4,000 square feet in Coconut Grove in 1974.

In an interview with the Business Journal in 2017, Kaufman described the changes in Miami over the years.
“Miami was a small town back then, where everyone really knew each other in the business community pretty well,” Kaufman said. “We were one of the tallest buildings around, and look at Coconut Grove today. Within our business, which family and acquaintances helped us get started, there was no technology beyond the IBM typewriter. That was the big technological tool of the moment.”

Today, Kaufman Rossin leases about 65,000 square feet in Coconut Grove and is one of South Florida’s largest accounting firms. It ranked No. 4 on the Business Journal list of largest accounting firms by CPAs with 178 CPAs and also No. 4 by total billings at $107.25 million. It has more than 700 employees overall.

Kaufman Rossin named Blain Heckaman managing principal in 2012, succeeding Kaufman.

“He was a significant mentor to me, and frankly, to many others in the firm,” Heckaman said. “The firm thinks of him as the heart and soul of the firm. He was very involved in the people side of the business. He was the visionary behind our people-first culture and the values that drove the success of the firm today.”

Kaufman officially retired from the firm in June 2022, but he maintained an office at its Coconut Grove headquarters and would sometimes attend celebrations and firm events, he added.

Kaufman believed in working hard and playing hard. Heckaman reflected on how Kaufman would captain his boat on trips to the Bahamas every summer for close to 40 years, and he loved camping in the wilderness.

“He was very fun to be around,” he said.

Kaufman was also a supporter of many nonprofit groups, including the Miami City Ballet, the Florida Grand Opera, the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the ACLU.

Read the full article on the South Florida Business Journal.