The London Stock Exchange yesterday said that its deputy chief executive, Martin Wheatley, was quitting after 18 years of working for the City institution.
The departure of Mr Wheatley, who will step down on 1 April, was greeted with surprise by many close to the Exchange. The decision is thought to have been agreed by him and Clara Furse, the chief executive of the Exchange.
While the two have not parted acrimoniously, it was thought there was no opening for Mr Wheatley to progress at the Exchange, because Ms Furse has no plans to relinquish the top job.
Mr Wheatley has been Ms Furse's deputy since she was appointed in January 2001 and before then helped to see the Exchange through some of its most crucial times, such as its demutualisation in 2000.
Sources close to the situation said Mr Wheatley felt disappointed when Ms Furse was brought in to take charge of the Exchange after it demutualised.
However, others said he was keen to quit now as, at 45, he should have an opportunity to take a very senior job elsewhere.
The Exchange is still negotiating what settlement he will receive. He is on a 12-month contract and last year was paid £210,000.
Ms Furse said: "Martin has made an outstanding contribution to the Exchange's development; in particular he played a key role in establishing the successful SETS electronic order book and during the Exchange's demutualisation in 2000." Mr Wheatley's position will not be filled. His departure may throw more light on Ms Furse's management of the Exchange.
While she has pushed through a series of innovations to modernise the company, many feel frustrated that she has failed to pull off a major merger with another bourse. The Exchange also was thwarted in its recent attempt to buy the futures business, Liffe.
Separately, the body announced that Martin Graham, the Exchange's director of market services, would chair the new board, overseeing the running and development of the Alternative Investment Market, its market for smaller companies.