Joel Kissin, one of the partners who helped Sir Terence Conran to create his restaurant empire, has decided to quit after 15 years with the company.
He will leave his role as president of Guastavino's in New York on 1 November, although he will retain his 20% share in the 300-seat restaurant and 100-seat club and continue to attend meetings.
Before moving to New York four years ago to set up Guastavino's, which opened in February 2000, Kissin was managing director of Conran Restaurants in the UK. He helped to develop the Conran chain from its first restaurant, Bibendum, in 1987 up to the first Zinc Bar and Grill.
Kissin said he had been considering a move for some time as "15 years is a long time to be working with one person". But he said the attack on the World Trade Center and the recession had proved a catalyst as Conran had delayed its planned expansion in the USA.
He said he did not want to "hang around for another couple of years" running a single restaurant. He has not yet decided on his future, nor whether he will remain in New York or return to the UK.
Des Gunewardena, chief executive of Conran Holdings, said the strategy was to establish Guastavino's as a strong and profitable business before expanding in the medium to long term. "The current climate is not exactly the hottest time to go round town looking at new sites," he added.
Kissin said that despite a difficult start, Guastavino's had been trading well until the summer, and that business had started to bounce back this month.
His departure revived rumours that the Conran empire is for sale, but Gunewardena insisted that there were no plans "to sell Conran Restaurants or any part of it".
New openings in the pipeline include restaurants in Islington, north London, and Birmingham next month and a nightclub in Paris at the end of the year.
by Angela Frewin