Auto Trader chief in surprise exit

The company behind Auto Trader was yesterday rocked by the surprise departure of chief executive John King.

Mr King, an Australian who has been at the helm since 2007, said: "The business needs a leader to commit long-term to the next stage of the firm's development." He has successfully pushed Auto Trader into digital but profits recently dipped, and the firm warned of a "recessionary effect in used-car markets".

Chief financial officer Zillah Byng-Maddick takes over on an interim basis at Trader Media Group, owned by Guardian Media Group and Apax.

GMG and Apax looked at a possible £2 billion flotation last year. In a separate move, The Guardian's most senior commercial executive, Adam Freeman, resigned today to join an internet start-up.