Colin Child, deputy chief executive, is leaving National Express at the end of this month "in order to pursue a career outside the group" after being refused the top job.
Along with Phil White, National Express's chief executive, Mr Child was part of the duo that steered the group from a long-distance coach operator into a broadly-based transport business.
It is now Britain's biggest rail operator and has also expanded into airports and overseas markets.
Mr White said that following a "frank and open" discussion, Mr Child had decided to leave. "Colin wants to be number one in an organisation not number two," he said, adding. "I am the number one at National Express and I want to keep it that way. I am usually a generous chap but I have not been generous on this occasion. I am not ready to hang up my boots and give up an executive role yet."
Mr Child earned pounds 1.5m last year including profits made on exercise of share options. He is entitled to six months severance pay worth pounds 125,000 and has remaining options showing a profit of pounds 600,000.
He may also be entitled to a proportion of the 46,000 shares awarded under the group's long-term share incentive scheme. Following Mr Child's departure National Express is strengthening the board by creating a four- strong team of executive directors.
Ray O'Toole is joining from First Group as chief operating officer while Richard Brown, currently managing director of the group's trains division, is promoted to group commercial director. National Express also intends to appoint a new group finance director, a role that Mr Child also filled.Reuse content