Ian Ayre to leave Liverpool sooner than expected as club paves way for new arrival
By Tony Barrett
Ian Ayre will leave Liverpool at the end of February, two and a half months earlier than expected, leaving the way clear for the Merseyside club to proceed with plans to have a new chief executive in place after the end of this season.
Ayre had planned to depart when his contract expires in May but he has brought forward his own departure having made significant progress on the transition process that was triggered when he announced his plans to leave in March last year.
Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), are understood to have made significant progress in their search for a successor to Ayre with his replacement expected to take over at the end of this season.
With Ayre set to join TSV 1860 Munich as chief executive in the coming months, Liverpool have prepared for his departure by instigating a restructure of the club’s senior management which will see Billy Hogan, previously chief commercial officer, become managing director, while Andy Hughes has been promoted to chief operating officer from his current role as chief financial officer.
Ayre’s own role has naturally diminished as his period of notice progressed, particularly with Michael Edwards having assumed responsibility for transfers and contract negotiations after being appointed sporting director in November last year. As a result, Ayre informed FSG of his desire to leave earlier than planned and his request has now been granted.
Speaking on behalf of John W Henry, Tom Werner and himself, FSG president Mike Gordon confirmed their expectation that a replacement will be in situ by this summer.
“Although this transition has been nearly a year in the making, today is still a difficult day—we are officially saying goodbye to Ian,” Gordon said.
“On behalf of John and Tom, I would like to place on record the outstanding contribution Ian has made to Liverpool Football Club over the past ten years. It goes without saying that his leadership of LFC has been instrumental to the club’s progress under our ownership. It is a measure of his character and his commitment to LFC that we have been able to collectively plan and execute such a gradual, natural transition. On both a professional and personal level, he will be missed.
“Over the past year, we made a number of changes to our management structure by promoting several of our top employees to more senior positions in recognition of their exceptional service to LFC. Though some of these changes are already public, today we are formally announcing the promotion of Billy Hogan to Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer, and Andy Hughes to Chief Operating Officer.
“The promotions are a reflection of their first-rate performance as executives and carry additions to their respective roles and responsibilities. These changes have already ushered in improvements to the club’s operations and they will also serve to ensure management stability during the transition to new executive leadership.
“The last step remaining is to conclude the process of identifying and hiring a successor to Ian. We are very pleased with the search progress and fully expect to have our new CEO in position by our original deadline of the summer 2017. We are quite confident that LFC will have the right structure and the best people operating within that structure to fill the lofty ambitions of LFC and its supporters.”
While Liverpool are already planning for the summer transfer window that does not add any urgency to the need to appoint Ayre’s successor as Liverpool’s new structure will see transfer business overseen by Edwards in collaboration with Jürgen Klopp. Although the chief executive will have an input it is not expected to be as significant as it has been in the past.
Ayre dismissed any notion that this had been a factor in his decision to leave Liverpool, insisting that the structural changes only came about as a result of his forthcoming departure, and he also underlined his belief that the influence of Gordon and Edwards will ensure the new approach is effective.
“We never had a conversation like that. It was never part of the discussion. It was never a factor in my decision,” Ayre maintained. “I can safely say that if I had been staying things would not have changed in the way that they have changed.
“It's natural to give that responsibility to Michael because of his experience. We have worked together on a number of transfers. It was never in any of my thinking. If I was staying here I would have expected to carry on negotiating transfers and I'm sure Mike (Gordon) would say the same. That was a part of the job I really enjoyed.
“I was saying to someone earlier, look at that team on the pitch the other night against Chelsea, I negotiated deals to bring every one of those players to the club apart from Jordan Henderson -and I negotiated Jordan's new deal. There's a satisfaction in knowing the team you leave is one you played your part in bringing here.
“The important thing is that there remains an openness and a dialogue. My personal view is that you can't have a 'them and us' in any football club, you can't have a complete separation between what goes on in football and what goes on in the rest of the business. It only works in my opinion when everything comes together as one.
“I think Mike's role, sitting across the whole group, is very important. The new CEO might not have the same level of involvement I've had in transfers and other football matters but he will still have an involvement.”
Citing the fulfilment of three main objectives – the redevelopment of the Main Stand at Anfield, seeing the club put on a more secure financial footing and the team become more competitive under Klopp – as the prime reason for his decision to leave earlier that expected, Ayre now plans to take a break before joining 1860.
“Anyone who knows me and knows me well knows that I’m very driven and like to be challenged,” he added. “I felt that it was less challenging by then and time to give somebody else an opportunity.
“At different stages of businesses and business organisations, they need different energy from people. So this felt natural for me, the right time. As we’ve both said, the relationship Mike and I have is first class, I’ve always had an open and honest way with him and that has continued.
“I don’t know when I’ll go (to 1860) yet. I’ll take some time out. I think it makes sense to freshen yourself up and give your mind a bit of peace and tranquillity. I’ll do some of that. I always said I wanted to finish this before I really focused on anything else so I genuinely haven’t agreed a date yet.
“But they know I’m coming because we’ve agreed a deal. I didn’t leave Liverpool with this on the cards, it’s something that came more recently. What excited me about it when I met Hasan Ismaik, the owner, there were some similarities with the Liverpool that came out of the Hicks and Gillett triangle of problems, in terms of what needs doing.
“They need somebody to bring the individual parts of the business together and that football club together; to harmonise and have unity in all work. They want to bring the club back to the top and do all sorts of things within the club. Hasan is committed to that.
“That’s exciting – the type of thing that drives me; it’s an interesting opportunity in a different country. When I put all of those parts together, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’d like to go and try that.’https://www.joe.co.uk/sport/ian-ayre-to-leave-liverpool-sooner-than-expected-as-club-paves-way-for-new-arrival/110958