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From trains to tobacco: Network Rail GC joins Japanese cigarette firm

Network Rail general counsel (GC) Suzanne Wise has resigned after five years at the company, leaving to join Japan Tobacco International (JTI) as senior vice president for corporate development.

Wise (pictured), who trained at Lewis Silkin, will be based in Geneva, and will join on 1 June 2017.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘Network Rail is expecting to replace her shortly following an internal recruitment process. Suzanne will step down from Network Rail at the end of May.’

While Network Rail declined to comment on Suzanne’s replacement, deputy group GC Stuart Kelly is a prime candidate.

Joining Network Rail in January 2012 from Premier Foods, Wise oversaw two panel reviews in 2013 and 2016. In 2016, Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds, Bond Dickinson, Dentons and Maclay Murray & Spens all had their contracts extended until 2019.

Wise was responsible for more than 30 lawyers and staff at Network Rail, and also oversaw the instruction of Eversheds in May 2015 in an attempt to curb the risk of a planned bank holiday rail strike by the TSSA union.

JTI is a leading international tobacco company with 367 offices worldwide, producing cigarette brands including Camel, Benson & Hedges and Sobranie. Wise will report to JTI’s incoming chief executive, Eddy Pirard, who will assume his role on 1 April 2017 after replacing Thomas McCoy.

Wise’s departure follows the resignation of long-serving corporate legal chief Natalie Jobling in September 2015. Jobling reported to Wise, and was responsible for restructuring the legal team and aiding the organisation’s transition from an independent company to public sector ownership.

In other in-house moves, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Philip Richards, who had been seconded to Rio Tinto’s legal team, has taken the top legal job at the mining firm on a permanent basis.

Legal Business revealed last week that Richards had been seconded to Rio Tinto since December last year when regulatory affairs group executive Debra Valentine was removed. However he now joins as group executive for legal and will sit on Rio Tinto’s executive committee.

Read more: ‘Perspectives: Suzanne Wise, Network Rail’