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Freshfields senior partner Anthony Salz is to retire - plunging the magic circle firm into its first set of leadership elections for five years.
Salz's retirement, announced today, will take effect at the end of the year.
Freshfields' constitution requires that his co-senior partner Konstantin Mettenheimer, will then have to stand for re-election.
A Freshfields source said: "Anthony signed up for a five year term but it was always clear that if one went, the other would be up for re-election."
Senior partners also appoint the management of the firm, raising the possibility of a wholesale shake-up.
Salz said: "Today’s announcement allows nine months for an orderly succession plan to be implemented. In the meantime it’s business as usual.
‘Looking forward I expect to keep strong links with the firm and to find a way to assist its future success.’
Co-Senior Partner Konstantin Mettenheimer said: ‘Anthony leaves a firm which is in good shape and confident about the challenges ahead.’
Salz, one of the biggest M&A stars of his generation, has been a partner at Freshfields for 30 years and senior partner for a decade. For the last five years he has had a variety of non-executive roles, including most recently at the BBC.