Stephen Mostyn-Williams, the high-profile head of banking at Ashurst Morris Crisp, mysteriously resigned from the firm last week and went home immediately without working any notice.
Ashursts issued a terse agreed statement saying that he had "resigned to pursue other interests".
In the statement, Mostyn-Williams hinted that he may be either going in-house, setting up his own niche firm or going to a non-competitor US firm. He said: "Ashursts has strong and interesting prospects and I am confident that there will be opportunities for us to work together in the future."
Ashursts' senior partner Andrew Soundy said: "Stephen has made a major contribution to the firm." Mostyn-Williams built up Ashurst's banking practice practically from scratch when he joined the firm from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert seven years ago, bringing US banking clients such as Bankers Trust and Goldman Sachs with him.
However, for the past two years there had been rumours that he might leave. His US banking clients would like US and English securities law advice from one firm and he admires firms like Clifford Chance which have international finance and banking at their heart.
As The Lawyer revealed on 2 March, Ashursts recently withdrew from merger talks with Clifford Chance. Mostyn-Williams was aware that Ashurst's core practice was corporate work where a US capability is seen as less important.
His official comment hints at that fact: "Ashursts is an elite corporate [our italics] law firm where I am very grateful to have spent nearly seven hard and rewarding years."
From Ashursts' point of view, Mostyn-Williams has dominated the banking practice and the board may have felt that his presence had prevented them from hiring as many people as they would like.
He is being replaced as head of banking by Justin Spendlove.