Kenneth Courtis has retired from Goldman Sachs, where he was vice-chairman for Asia. The Tokyo-based banker will leave the firm at the end of March.

Courtis, who was hired into Goldman in 2000 by John Thornton, was previously Deutsche BankÆs Asian chief economist and strategist. At Goldman he was one of three vice-chairmen in Asia (alongside Hsueh Sung and Carlos Cordeiro) and specialized in talking to GoldmanÆs key clients about macroeconomic policy issues.

Courtis hit the headlines early last year when he objected to CNOOCÆs attempted bid for Unocal. Courtis was a board member of CNOOC and disagreed with the acquisition of the US oil firm.

However, what made the situation unusual was that Goldman was advising CNOOC on its bid, which hence pitted the investment bankÆs M&A strategy against the vice-chairmanÆs opposing view as an independent director. Courtis eventually recused himself from board votes on the bid. In the event, CNOOC lost out to ChevronTexaco. (CourtisÆs place on the CNOOC board was also something of an anomaly since Goldman had put in place a policy that its bankers cannot sit on company boards to avoid precisely such sensitive situations.)

Courtis, who is often quoted in the media for his economic views, is rumoured to be setting up his own consulting company called Kenneth Courtis & Associates.