Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre announced on Monday that he will leave the Premier League club at the end of next season.
Ayre has been in the role since 2013, having previously been managing director and commercial director at Anfield.
The 52-year-old has decided to step down at the end of his contract in May 2017 due to the relentless demands of running a club of Liverpool’s stature.
Ayre has often been seen as a divisive figure among fans who didn’t believe he had the experience to lead Liverpool on a day to day basis.
He was also the target of supporters’ anger during their recent ticket price protests, which ended with the club making an embarrassing climb-down over their price hike plan.
However, US-based owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have been staunch supporters of Ayre, who helped pave the way for their 2010 takeover after voting against then owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, at a time when the club’s financial situation was extremely unstable.
FSG tried to persuade Ayre, who is a lifelong Liverpool fan, 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.”
Ayre admitted the decision to walk away from Liverpool was the most difficult he had ever had to make.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“Having been brought up in the shadow of Anfield, I have found it the most profound privilege to serve the club I have supported all my life.
“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.”