Kirkland & Ellis' London office was rocked yesterday by the shock resignation of Managing Partner - and firm committee member - James "Jim" Learner. He will move back to the States at the end of the summer.

In a voicemail to staff, Learner explained that the decision to quit the firm and head home to join a US-based private equity house as a managing partner was unplanned, and made for personal reasons. And despite Learner being at the top of equity at the famously high-paying firm, presumably financial too.

    Jim Learner looking forward to his first corn dog

Learner was one of the first K&E partners on the ground in Europe, moving over in 1994 to set up operations. Aggressive recruitment and hiring of big name partners to service private equity clients has funded the office through rapid expansion, and the firm currently employs 120 lawyers over several floors of the Gherkin. All of whom earn staggering sums of money.

Worryingly for the Chicago-based firm, Learner is also the European relationship manager for Bain Capital, Kirkland's blue riband client. And the firm will no doubt be nervously looking over its shoulder, especially as rival to the Bain millions, Ropes & Gray, opened a London office a couple of years back.

A spokesman for Kirkland said it was a great shame that Jim was leaving, and they hoped to persuade him to stay.
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