LONDON--Jeff Smith is departing Cohn & Wolfe to head communications for Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) in Europe.

Smith leaves Cohn & Wolfe after joining last year as managing director of the firm's UK healthcare practice.

He relocates to Paris later this month to become head of public affairs and communications at BMS Europe. Smith takes charge of an existing communications function that has been reorganised in recent times, he told the Holmes Report.

"It was just a terrific opportunity that presented itself," said Smith. "I’m saddened to leave Cohn & Wolfe as it's a great agency and we’ve had a lot of growth."

At BMS, Smith will report to global communications, public affairs and investor relations EVP John Elicker, who is based in New York. He will also sit on BMS Europe president Ron Cooper's management team.

Cohn & Wolfe EMEA MD Scott Wilson said that Smith had played a critical role in rebuilding the firm's healthcare practice, which "will grow by 30 percent this year".

"He’s been nothing but a positive influence on the team and the wider board," said Wilson. "This was a year when the healthcare business really returned to rude health."

Wilson added that Cohn & Wolfe had recently made two senior healthcare hires, so is in no hurry to fill Smith's vacant role. "I don’t think I will hire in haste but see how the land lies between now and the end of year."

Prior to joining Cohn & Wolfe, Smith spent three years at Chandler Chicco.