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Shearman & Sterling senior partner Rohan Weerasinghe has quit to join Citigroup as general counsel.
The New York-based corporate partner formally announced his resignation to the firm today but will stay on until June.
The firm hopes to have appointed a replacement before the global partners’ meeting in the US in early May, with names floated as potential replacements including global M&A head Creighton Condon.
Citigroup confirmed the hire, announcing that Weerasinghe would join as general counsel and corporate secretary on 1 June. He is set to replace incumbent Michael Helfer, who will become vice chairman of the group on the same date. Helfer joined from Nationwide in 2003 (27 January 2003).
Weerasinghe said in a statement: “Having spent 35 years advising companies on their most critical legal issues, I am looking forward to this new professional challenge - leading Citi’s world-class legal organisation as it continues to provide important guidance to the company.”
Shearman London head Nick Buckworth told The Lawyer the firm was working on an “orderly succession”, with management hoping to have a new senior partner in place by the partnership conference in the first week of May. The firm’s policy committee is charged with coming up with recommendations for a replacement, with candidates submitting applications to the committee for a full partnership vote.
“We would like to see this done and dusted by the partnership meeting,” Buckworth commented.
Weerasinghe was first voted into the role as Shearman chief seven years ago (8 June 2005) and was re-elected last year. Citigroup is one of the US firm’s biggest clients. Weerasinghe has strong ties to the company as a key partner on the account and is a longstanding friend of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.
Buckworth said: “This is a great way for us to continue to maintain that relationship. They’re a very, very important client for us.” He added: “Rohan has done a sterling job in terms of really injecting a lot of energy and pace into the business.”
Pandit said in a statement: “Rohan has a great track record as an attorney, and I have tremendous confidence in his abilities. I look forward to him bringing his expertise and insights to Citi.” On Helfer’s new role, he added: “Michael has provided almost a decade of wise counsel and has experience in virtually every area where finance and the law intersect.”