Linklaters’ US head, Tom Shropshire, is to join global drinks giant Diageo as its general counsel on the retirement of its longstanding GC, Siobhán Moriarty.
Today’s appointment heralds both the bowing out of one of Europe’s most high-profile GCs as well as the still relatively unusual move in-house of a leading Magic Circle law firm partner – Shropshire had been regarded as a front-runner in the race to replace Charlie Jacobs as Linklaters’ next senior partner.
The move also promises to extend Diageo’s legal department's record for diversity: Moriarty has gained recognition for her role as a champion of women in business while Shropshire has regularly featured in The Powerlist of Britain’s most Influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage.
Moriarty joined Diageo in 1997 when she worked on the merger between Guinness and Grand Metropolitan that created the FTSE 100 giant. She became general counsel in 2013 and took on the combined role of general counsel and company secretary in 2018. In a statement, Diageo said she had 'redefined the role of the legal function, bringing greater commercial focus and making a valuable contribution to Diageo’s long-term performance'.
New York-born Shropshire divides his time between London and New York having climbed through the ranks to become a partner in 2006 and global head of the US practice in 2017. He advises on crossborder M&A and capital markets deals as well as in an advisory capacity to corporates. He is co-head of the Risk & Resilience Practice at Linklaters, which advises clients on risk, regulation and governance.
He is involved in the United Nations' Global Compact, which aims to promote sustainable business practices, and is a member of the steering committee for The Parker Review, an independent review into the ethnic diversity of UK boards.
Diageo's chief executive, Ivan Menezes, said Shropshire's expertise and "passion and advocacy for sustainability, inclusion and diversity" would make him a great asset and praised Moriarty for her "outstanding contribution" to Diageo and "her strong sense of purpose and professionalism".
Shropshire added: "As well as supporting its continued growth, I am also excited to join a company that has a strong purpose and shares my values, including championing diversity and inclusion across its entire business and beyond, and to help deliver its pioneering societal and environmental commitments globally.”
Linklaters said Shropshire would be leaving the firm on 1 June, adding: "Whilst we will miss him and the important role he has played in the firm, we understand his reasons for taking this opportunity and he leaves with our best wishes for the future.”
Meanwhile Jacobs will become co-head of UK investment banking at JPMorgan when he steps down as senior partner in September. A contested election to replace him is due to take place in May, according to Legal Business, with corporate head Aedamar Comiskey among the favourites to replace him in a move that would emulate Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's election last September of its first woman senior partner, Georgia Dawson.
Moriarty, meanwhile, is due to step down from her role in September. In an interview in 2017 with Diageo, she described unconscious bias as a key barrier to greater gender diversity, including women ‘unconsciously putting limits on themselves’.
She added: “Not to generalise, but I see a lot of women who think that because they don’t have all the skills or experience needed for a role, they can’t do it, so they take themselves out of the running.”