Former Huddersfield Town chairman Ian Ayre will step down as Liverpool chief executive in May 2017.
Originally chief executive at the John Smith’s Stadium, Ayre was at the heart of the Barry Rubery era at Town and enjoyed that famous FA Cup tie against his boyhood favourites Liverpool in December 1999.
Ayre, 52, has given the Reds hierarchy 15 months’ notice of his intention to stand down and has refused pleas from owners Fenway Sports Group to reconsider.
The father of four, with three grandchildren, has cited the remorseless intensity of running a club of Liverpool’s stature as the primary reason behind his decision.
He told the Liverpool Echo’s Dave Prentice: “It’s probably the most difficult decision I’ve made, certainly in my professional career.
“It was a difficult decision to come here because I knew the size of the task here at Liverpool and it’s an even more difficult decision to make in leaving.
“But if you care about the club – which I do – and you have so much invested in the club, not just having worked here but through your family and your time as a supporter, then you need to do what you feel is right for the club as well as yourself.
“I feel the timing and the level of commitment that is required, this is the right time and I hope that people see that given the sort of notice I have given to the owners is a mark of respect to them and to the football club.”
Both Ayre and club owners FSG insist that the recent season ticket price protests, which saw Ayre come under heavy criticism from supporters, played no part in his decision.
“First and foremost the timing would completely rule that out,” said Ayre. “I made this decision over the Christmas and New Year period and had a conversation in early January with the owners. So from a timing perspective that’s completely wrong.
“And secondly I think if you can run a football club like Liverpool, and you’re going to be involved as I’ve been for nine years so far, you can’t bend and fall on certain individual issues, albeit that some of them are significant, because there’s been plenty of them in my tenure.
“Part of being a CEO, not just of Liverpool but of any business, is to be strong in difficult times and make difficult decisions and perform through that and bring your team along with you.
“I think of all of that was achieved, so there’s no correlation between the announcement and the ticketing issue.”