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In-house: big names move shop as BT’s Fitz goes into medical research and tech giants see exits

Three of the global in-house community’s leading lights have announced moves in recent weeks, with former BT general counsel (GC) Dan Fitz’s moving to The Francis Crick Institute and resignations at both Google and Facebook.

Fitz, who in December last year announced he would be stepping down after seven years, will take up his new role as GC and company secretary at the biomedical research centre in November.

The Crick is a partnership between the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, UCL, Imperial College London and King’s College London. In 2016, it moved into a new £700m London base, bringing together more than 1,500 scientists and support staff. Fitz takes over from former GC Melanie Chatfield.

Fitz is regarded as one of the most influential and admired GCs. Former Anheuser-Busch InBev legal chief, Sabine Chalmers, replaced Fitz in April, though he remained on the executive committee as company secretary. He led a legal, governance and compliance team of more than 500 at BT and 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.

He joined BT from Cable & Wireless in 2010, and was named GC of the Year at the 2018 Legal Business Awards. He was credited with bringing BT’s legal team into one common structure with a single budget.

Elsewhere, Facebook GC Colin Stretch used the social media platform to announce he would leave the company at the end of this year after eight years. He had been named GC in 2013, succeeding Ted Ullyot.

In a Facebook post, Stretch commented: ‘When my wife Alyse and I made the decision a few years ago to move back to [Washington] DC from California, we knew it would be difficult for me to remain in this role indefinitely. As Facebook embraces the broader responsibility [Facebook chief executive] Mark [Zuckerberg] has discussed in recent months, I’ve concluded that the company and the legal team need sustained leadership in Menlo Park.’

Finally, Google GC Kent Walker reportedly stood down from his role following a promotion to senior vice-president of global affairs, where he will lead the company’s legal, policy, trust and safety and corporate philanthropy teams. Last month, the European Commission (EC) fined Google a record €4.34bn for breaching competition rules.