Legal Business Blogs

In-house: Royal Mail’s GC Harnby to leave role by end of the year

Royal Mail’s general counsel (GC) Neil Harnby is due to leave his role by the end of this year, nearly two years after the postal services’ high profile and controversial initial public offering (IPO).

Harnby, who has held the GC position since January 2012, will go on sabbatical with his replacement yet to be announced. Prior to his role at Royal Mail, he was a banking partner at Linklaters before moving in-house in 2009 to serve as GE Capital’s GC for Europe and the Middle East.

Over the last few years, Harnby, who oversees the risk aspects and overall legal function at Royal Mail, has substantially restructured the legal function, reducing the size of the team by half. Speaking to Legal Business in February, he said: ‘My life here has all been about achieving corporate milestones, I joined at an opportune time to advise on the privatisation of the Royal Mail – so we had to package up the company to make it sellable. We did due diligence on the business for the first time ever. We covered every aspect of the group’s portfolio. The government decided to sell Royal Mail through the public markets as opposed to a private sale and we had to write a prospectus to sell it – which I oversaw on behalf of the board. It was a very successfully executed flotation, which unfortunately got mired in political controversy.’

The now 70-strong team at Royal Mail, which includes compliance professionals and claims handlers, was named Legal BusinessIn-house team of the year 2015 following a busy period which included the £3.3bn IPO, a panel review, an inaugural corporate bond and two competition inquiries.

The recent panel review, which was led by Royal Mail’s deputy GC Maaike de Bie and director of legal operations Sarah Barrett-Vane, saw a total of 15 firms appointed to the roster in November, including firms allocated to Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Firms including Slaughter and May, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills and Addleshaw Goddard were asked to work in partnership in a bid to embed a consistent way of working to meet the increasing demands of the business, drive efficiency and to sponsor diversity initiatives.

For more on Harnby’s career to date and the challenges Royal Mail faced during its IPO see – Client profile: Neil Harnby, Royal Mail Group