Legal Business Blogs

GC community to lose a heavyweight as BT’s Fitz steps down

Widely cited as one of the most influential and admired general counsel (GC) since Legal Business began covering the in-house legal market in earnest more than five years ago, BT GC Dan Fitz is stepping down after seven years to be replaced by former Anheuser-Busch InBev legal chief Sabine Chalmers.

A spokesperson confirmed Chalmers would join BT as GC in April next year, while Fitz (pictured), who has been BT GC since 2010, will remain on the executive committee as company secretary.

US-based Chalmers has more than 25 years’ experience in law, compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and was chief legal and corporate affairs officer at AB InBev for 13 years, before her departure earlier this year following AB InBev’s tie-up with fellow drinks giant SAB Miller.

Chalmers, who featured prominently in our ‘Leadership and the modern GC’ special report a year ago, is regarded as one of the leading lights of the GC community and will be considered more than just a safe pair of hands to take on one of the most senior legal roles in the UK.

Fitz, who was singled out as one of the most prominent senior in-house lawyers in Europe in our original GC Powerlist published at the start of 2013, landed his first in-house legal role with Cable & Wireless before joining BT in 2010 at a very difficult time for the company, mired in debt and insecurity and having shed around 20% of its workforce in the preceding two years. Fitz quickly gained respect for being ‘at the forefront of developments in the international markets for communications and media services’.

Last year, Fitz told Legal Business technology and de-regulation would change the role of the GC dramatically and that he wanted to do other things in the long-term, such as teaching about the management of legal services.

At the time, he commented: ‘Places like BT will see increasingly fewer in-house lawyers doing crank-the-handle work.  We’ll be focused on higher value-add work where knowledge of the company will be married with legal expertise.  The advisory role will become relatively more important than the transactional role.’

In April, BT concluded its long-awaited UK and Ireland panel review, with a raft of Magic Circle firms including Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Linklaters winning places on the extended roster.

The review, which would run until April 2020, also saw Addleshaw Goddard, Baker McKenzie, Berwin Leighton Paisner, CMS Cameron McKenna and Eversheds Sutherland named as advisers.

BT’s review was originally supposed to have been wrapped up in September/October last year, after which the company planned to kick start a review of its first (non-UK panel) international legal panel.

That global review has been put on hold.