In the latest top-level changes at Morgan Stanley (MWD), Co-President Stephen S. Crawford (search) resigned from the financial services firm while fellow Co-President Zoe Cruz was appointed acting president, the company said Monday.

Crawford and Cruz were named co-presidents in March under former Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Purcell (search), who announced his retirement in June under pressure from investors and the firm's board for his leadership style and management. Their appointments spurred the first of a stream of high-level departures from the company, which makes Crawford's exit no surprise.

Purcell was replaced by John J. Mack (search), who returned to Morgan Stanley four years after resigning from the firm in a bitter power struggle with Purcell.

The financial services firm said Crawford will leave the company "to pursue other interests." Under an agreement reached June 30, Crawford will receive $32 million — two years' worth of salary, bonuses and long-term compensation — as well as all of his accrued retirement benefits. All of his pending stock options also will vest immediately.

Crawford joined Morgan Stanley in 1986 and previously served as the firm's chief financial officer and chief administrative and risk officer.

While credited for Dean Witter & Co.'s (search) 1997 takeover of Morgan Stanley, which installed him at the top of the combined company, Purcell was criticized for failing to fully integrate Dean Witter's brokerage arm with Morgan Stanley's storied investment banking business.

Longtime Morgan Stanley veterans also accused Purcell of favoritism; the appointment of Crawford and Cruz as co-presidents and, a few weeks later, as members of the company board, led to the departure of a number of highly regarded executives and dealmakers, most notably merger-and-acquisition star Joseph Perella.

Mack has said he will try to persuade Perella and other top executives to return to Morgan Stanley, and Crawford's departure could help in that. Cruz, on the other hand, was one of Mack's proteges during the latter's tenure as president in the 1990s, and is considered more likely to stay on with the company.