Robert Zinn, the former president of Akerman Senterfitt and chair of its automotive group, is leaving after 17 years for Carlton Fields.

The board of directors accepted his resignation on Friday.

Zinn, 53, said he decided to leave because the firm recently started representing car manufacturers, which conflicts with his car dealership representation.

"It started to become a bit of a problem for me to fully represent my clients in the way I want to and the way they needed me to and to fully develop my automotive practice," he said.

Zinn said he is not taking any other lawyers with him to Carlton. He will begin as a Miami shareholder in its corporate, securities and tax practice July 8.

Zinn said he began serious talks several months ago with a number of law firms, including some out-of-state firms that wanted to open Miami offices, before settling on Carlton. He declined to name the other law firms.

"My practice has gone extremely well in the year since I've stepped down as president," Zinn said. "It's time for me to go and find a new challenge."

Sources at both Akerman and Carlton have said Zinn was removed as president of Akerman and unhappy about it.

In an interview, Zinn acknowledged he missed management and would have considered another management position with Akerman if asked to serve. He held the firm's presidency from 2006 to 2012.

"I enjoy management," he said. "It's part of what I do for my clients."

Andrew Smulian, Akerman chairman and CEO, said in a statement: "We are very grateful for Robert's service. We support his decision, and we wish him well.

Charles Rosenberg, Carlton's Miami managing partner, said he was thrilled to land Zinn, who has several friends in the firm.

"We're very pleased," Rosenberg said. "We welcome him to the firm and know he will make a significant contribution and look forward to many years of practicing with him."

Tampa-based Carlton Fields is deep in merger talks with Miami-based Jorden Burt, a combination which would create a 310-lawyer firm with offices in Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Connecticut. The merger would give Carlton a lucrative complex insurance regulatory and defense practice.

"I have a great deal of respect for the Jorden Burt firm," Zinn said. "They have a long and distinguished reputation."

Ironically, Jorden Burt also was in merger talks with Akerman Senterfitt last year.

Zinn joined Akerman in 1996 after two years at Greenberg Traurig. Previously, he had a 20-year career as a car dealer and owned Zinn Mazda in Perrine, which was destroyed in Hurricane Andrew. He also served as chief operating officer of the largest General Motors group in the Middle East and has held leadership positions with Warren Henry Automobiles and Craig Zinn Automotive Group.

Julie Kay can be reached at (305) 347-6685.