Virgin Atlantic head of legal Hugh Ford has quit for FTSE 100 property company Liberty International.

Ford will be replaced by Jill Brady of internet travel company, who starts at Virgin on 12 May.

Ford, who joined Virgin from British Airways, will become Liberty’s general counsel. He is taking over from director of legal Farrell Sher, who is retiring.

Liberty’s main focus is on retail property. It owns the Lakeside shopping centre, the Metro Centre in Gateshead and Braehead shopping centre in Glasgow.

Ford joins outspoken Liberty International chairman Donald Gordon, a fierce opponent of recent corporate governance reforms proposed in the Higgs report.

Liberty’s main law firms are Linklaters and Nabarro Nathanson, both of which have had a great deal of business from the acquisitive company. As the sole lawyer at Liberty, previous incumbent Sher was heavily reliant on the firms, both of which will be new to Ford, who has been using firms from the Virgin Group panel.

Virgin Group head of legal Helena Samaha set up the panel in May 2001 for the benefit of all of Virgin Group’s companies. The panel includes Allen & Overy, Ashurst Morris Crisp, Bond Pearce, CMS Cameron McKenna, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA, Eversheds, Finers Stephens Innocent, Harbottle & Lewis, Herbert Smith and Macfarlanes.

Ford did not report to Samaha, but to Virgin Atlantic chief financial officer Julie Southern. His replacement Brady takes charge of a team of seven, which includes four lawyers.