Andersens calls back Hong Kong head and tightens grip on Garretts

Justin Ede, the managing partner of Arthur Andersen's affiliated Hong Kong law firm Ede Charlton & Co, has been recalled to London.

It has also emerged that property specialist Nigel Bacon, who was recruited from the Hong Kong office of Herbert Smith in April last year, has already left to take up a non-legal role at a US property company.

An Andersens spokesperson said Ede would rejoin his old firm, Garretts, at the start of September.

Ede, a litigator at Garretts, was sent to set up the Hong Kong-based firm in November 1996 with ex-Simmons & Simmons corporate partner Julia Charlton.

The office grew rapidly to four partners but has suffered recently from the downturn in corporate and property work in Hong Kong and it is thought Andersens is not happy with its performance.

Andersens is thought to be mounting a shakeup of its English lawyers in the UK and Hong Kong following the failure of talks with Wilde Sapte in June. Andersens had wanted Wilde Sapte to manage any performance issues.

The departure of Garretts managing partner Julia Chain, destination unknown, was announced in July. In addition, Andersens in London is believed to have taken the unusual step of assigning its own marketing staff to four Garretts corporate partners in London whose fee income had not reached the levels it wanted.

Asked about the shake up an Andersens spokesman said: “Law firms want to run profitable and viable businesses and our strategy is that the law firms should take maximum advantage of the global Andersen's network.”

In Hong Kong, Charlton will fill Ede's position as managing partner for the time being, but Hong Kong insiders said that she had a strong independent streak that would not lend itself to management by her sponsors at Arthur Andersen.

Ede declined to comment on his move, directing all enquiries to Andersens.