Barnes will step down in February to set up a luxury fitness resort near Montpellier in the south of France.
A renowned property sector expert, Barnes’s major clients include Boots and The Crown Estate.
The company has made a string of recent hires – D-J Collins from the Department for Education and Skills, Rebekah Paczek from The Communication Group and Stephen Day from GPC International – to handle Barnes’s clients.
Barnes joined GJW in 1989 and was part of the management buyout of the company in 1996.
GJW was acquired by BSMG in 2001 and became part of Weber Shandwick in 2002. Barnes has been joint MD of the practice since September that year.
Explaining his decision, Barnes – who denied speculation that he was planning to step down to PRWeek in August – said: ‘After 15 years in public affairs, my partner and I feel the time is right to change direction and find our place in the sun.’
McLeod said: ‘My first priority will be to work even more closely with our corporate team to deliver a stream of new media and public affairs projects.’
McLeod will have three directors reporting to him: Wilf Weeks, Peter Bowyer, and Collins.