Shandwick Public Affairs has hired a head for its new crisis and issues management practice from the press office at 10 Downing Street.
David Peel joins the agency next month after more than two years as part of the team headed by chief press secretary Alastair Campbell.
Campbell said: 'David has been a great asset to the Downing Street press office and I have no doubt he will put his talents to good use in the private sector.'
Peel is the first appointment since the departure last month of director Alan Butler to APCO (PR Week, 18 August). While Peel does not directly replace Butler, he will take the title director and report to CEO Colin Byrne.
Peel joined Downing Street in 1998 from the Department of Education and Employment. In his role at the department of education - before it merged with employment - he acted as personal spokesman for current trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers.
Prior to that, he was at the department of the environment for three years, following a spell as a newspaper journalist and a regional press officer with the Central Office of Information in Bristol.
Peel has worked with Tony Blair's private office and is understood to have been on duty during the Prime Minister's disastrous performance at the Women's Institute - where slow handclapping led to news reports about 'Blair's worst week'.