Watson Burton coup ousts managing partner Hoyle

The highest paid lawyer in Newcastle, Watson Burton’s managing partner Andrew Hoyle, has been ejected from the firm after the partnership staged a coup.

The move will be seen by many as a kick in the teeth to Hoyle, who has steered Watson Burton to the highest average profit per equity (PEP) partner of any firm in the North East – the £712,000 figure topping even that of many City firms.

Under Hoyle’s stewardship, Watson Burton also opened its first City base, the six-partner office in the Gherkin founded in July, and hit record turnover of £22.9m for the financial year 2005-06, winning it a place in The Lawyer’s UK 100 ranking for the first time.

The firm has just seven equity partners out of a total of 40 partners, and the balance of power shifted dramatically, leaving Hoyle isolated. At the top of equity Hoyle banked £850,000 last year when PEP was £712,000.

In a sign of the simmering unrest behind closed doors, at the end of August the firm also lost the founding partner of its Leeds arm, banking specialist Andrew Gosnay.

The banking and finance head’s departure came scarcely more than a year after he joined from Pinsent Masons in early 2005, and did not result from an opportunity at another firm or business.

Gosnay oversaw the Leeds office’s expansion from a corporate finance core into insolvency, construction and employment work, and his loss was a major setback for the firm in a city notoriously difficult to crack to newcomers.

The firm has yet to decide on a new leader.