Top Birmingham lawyer Julian Tonks has had to step down as senior partner of Pinsent Masons after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
And yesterday his wife Ann, herself a leading businesswoman in the city, revealed how her husband had lost his battle to get back in harness.
"Most men think they are invincible until they realise they are not," she commented.
She said Mr Tonks was still determined to return in some capacity, but had realised the days of working an 80-hour week had gone. He is being replaced by Chris Mullen, joint head of the firm's financial services and insurance sector and group head of employment, pensions and tax.
Pinsent Masons is today an international law firm based in Birmingham which is largely the creation of Mr Tonks, one of the outstanding lawyers of his generation.
He has been senior partner for some 11 years and has built the £150 million-plus turnover firm though a series of mergers and expansions to be one of the city's great success stories.
Aged 52, Mr Tonks has been off work since February and had hoped to continue in post.
But his wife said: " Sometimes you have to accept a change in your lifestyle. He has had to realise that to keep it in check you cannot stress yourself too much. It was a demanding role and he has always wanted to give it 150 per cent.
"It is a big job and he is someone who would get on a plane and fly here and there at a moment's notice. But we all have to adjust."
Parkinson's disease affects the muscles and Mr Tonks first realised he had a problem when he felt there was something wrong with his left arm.
Mrs Tonks said he had always been sensitive about his health, yet it was only when his GP referred him to a consultant that Parkinson's become apparent.
"The specialist knew within ten minutes that it was what Julian had," said Mrs Tonks. "He had probably had it for much longer than was appreciated. It does not affect judgement or memory but wears away at the muscles."
And she praised the business community and The Birmingham Post for playing ball over her husband's ill health, giving him time to come to a decision over what had become an open secret to many in the sector. Mr Tonks still hopes to return in some sort of clientfacing role.
David Ryan, managing partner, said the circumstances of Mr Tonks's departure as senior partner were "very sad".
He said: "It was very much his own decision. He realised that the firm needed a senior partner and he was not making sufficient progress."
But he said the firm "very much hoped" Mr Tonks - in the early stages of Parkinson's - would return in some capacity.
His illness comes as his wife, who formerly ran Bank in Brindleyplace, is about to launch the new Opus restaurant in Cornwall Street in the heart of the city centre.
It opens for business on July 15.
Pinsents has around 1,500 staff in offices across the UK including London, Leeds and Manchester as well as Birmingham.
Mr Mullen was elected after a vote of the firm's 264 partners.
He takes up the position from today and his term of office will run through to December 2007.
"I am delighted and honoured to be taking on the role of senior partner, although saddened by the circumstances in which this has come about," said Mr Mullen.
"Six months post-merger, Pinsent Masons is seeing the benefits. Our decision to focus our strengths into those market sectors where our expertise and experience make a real difference for clients is bearing fruit."