Manchester United have confirmed that their chief executive of two years, Richard Arnold, “has decided to step down” as part of a “managerial transition”.
The development was revealed shortly after Sky News reported that Mr. Arnold would be replaced by the club’s general counsel, Patrick Stewart, on an interim basis.
The change comes as the club’s owners complete the sale of a minority stake to petrochemical billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
The club’s filing to the New York Stock Exchange indicates that Mr. Arnold, who has held positions within United for 16 years, would provide transitional support until the end of December.
Co-executive chairman Joel Glazer said: “I would like to thank Richard for his outstanding service to Manchester United over the past 16 years and wish him all the best for his future endeavours.
“We are fortunate to be able to call on the depth of knowledge and experience of Patrick Stewart to provide interim stability and continuity as we embark on the search for a new permanent CEO.”
Mr Arnold said of his departure: “It has been an incredible privilege to serve this great football club over the last 16 years.
“Through the ups and downs, the constant has been the dedication of our employees and supporters. I would like to thank them all for their loyalty and commitment and wish everyone associated with the club the very best for the future. ‘future.”
Neither the club nor Mr Arnold gave a reason for the decision, but their statement suggested it was of his own making.
A source told Sky’s City editor Mark Kleinman that appointing Mr Stewart as interim CEO would allow United’s new co-owners to identify the right long-term candidate to lead the club.
United are expected to confirm, within days, Sky News’ exclusive revelations that Sir Jim’s Ineos Sports is acquiring a 25% stake.
Kleinman revealed earlier this month that Sir Jim will spend $300 million (£245 million) of his multibillion-pound fortune on overhauling United’s aging infrastructure, on top of the estimated £1.3 billion he will spend to acquire the interest.
The funds will be financed by Sir Jim personally and will not be added to Manchester United’s existing borrowings.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested the billionaire will immediately take control of football affairs at the club, alongside colleagues at Ineos Sports including Sir Dave Brailsford, the former cycling supremo.
Many United fans have expressed concern at the prospect of Sir Jim buying a minority stake, given it paves the way for continued control of the Glazers.
The family, who paid just under £800 million to buy the club in 2005, have remained impenetrable throughout the process and have said nothing of substance to the NYSE since beginning the process of engaging with the potential buyers.
Previous versions of Sir Jim’s bids for the club, which sought outright control, included sale and purchase agreements that would become exercisable three years after a takeover to allow him to buy back the remaining shares of the club.
The Monaco-based billionaire, owner of Ligue 1 team Nice, proposed a restructured deal last month to try to break the current impasse over United’s future.
In addition to competing offers from Sir Jim and Sheikh Jassim, the Glazers have received several credible offers of minority stakes or financing to fund investments in the club.
The Glazers’ tenure has been marred by controversy and protest, with the lack of a Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in 2013 fueling fans’ anger at the debt-fueled nature of their redemption.
“Love United, Hate Glazers” became a familiar refrain during their tenure, with supporters criticizing the perceived lack of investment in the club, even though the owners reaped large dividends from its ability to generate significant profits .