Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre is to leave his position at the end of next season.
The 52-year-old has been in his current role since 2013, having previously been managing director and commercial director in a nine-year spell at Anfield, but has decided to step down at the end of his contract in May 2017.
Ayre has often been seen as a divisive figure among fans, often bearing the brunt of criticism from those who did not see him as having the necessary experience to run a club of Liverpool’s stature, while he was also the target of much of the supporters’ anger during the recent ticket price protests.
However, owners Fenway Sports Group has been a staunch supporter of the man who helped pave the way for its buyout back in 2010 after voting against then owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in a boardroom battle for the future of the club. He then helped bring much-needed stability.
In fact, FSG tried to persuade him to reverse his decision without success.
“Ian advised us of his intention to step down as CEO a few months ago,” said a joint statement from FSG principal owner John W Henry, chairman, Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon.
“We asked him on several occasions to take some time to reconsider his decision but have been unable to convince him to remain as CEO beyond May of 2017.
“We will at some point in the near future begin identifying and recruiting a worthy successor to continue to build on the outstanding foundations which have been laid by Ian.
“Under his leadership we have seen Liverpool transform from a club that was on the brink of bankruptcy to one which today enjoys strong financial and operational health.
“Stability is a commodity often under-valued in sporting organisations but it has been a fundamental hallmark of Ian’s time in charge.
“Liverpool will reap the benefits of his outstanding work for many years to come.”
The club have 15 months to identify and appoint a successor, during which time Ayre will remain on active duty.
Press Association Sport understands no criteria has yet been put in place for the selection process but Ayre remaining in his post will ensure a seamless transition.
“If becoming chief executive of Liverpool Football Club was the greatest honour of my professional life then deciding to step down at the end of my current contract is by far the most difficult,” said Ayre.
“Having the privilege to lead this great club comes with huge responsibility and challenge but one which I have relished and I feel proud of my achievements in the role.
“I believe the end of next season is the right time to pass the CEO baton on to a new person, who will take on the challenges and opportunities with a fresh enthusiasm and vigour.
“They will do so supported by what I believe to be the best ownership group in world sport and by a truly excellent team of staff throughout the football club.
“The driving principle behind every decision I have taken during my time here has been to do the best for the long-term stability and health of this great football club.
“In the remaining 15 months I have as CEO I will continue to provide FSG, Jurgen (Klopp), the players and all the brilliant staff at Liverpool ongoing strategic leadership and a smooth transition.”