Liverpool CEO Ayre Will Step Down at End of Contract in 2017

  • Under Ayre, team turned a profit for first time in seven years
  • Reds were close to bankruptcy under previous U.S. owners

Ian Ayre, the executive who helped steer 18-time English soccer champion Liverpool through the roughest periods in the club’s history, will step down as chief executive officer when his contract expires next spring.

Club officials "have been unable to convince him to remain as CEO beyond May 2017,” Reds President Mike Gordon said in a statement. "Under his leadership, we have seen Liverpool transform from a club that was on the brink of bankruptcy, to one which today enjoys strong financial and operational health."

Ayre, 52, was one of a group of directors who helped negotiate the 2010 sale of the team to Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, which also owns the Boston Red Sox. Ayre was promoted to managing director after the sale, then became CEO in May 2014.

"If becoming chief executive of Liverpool Football Club was the greatest honor of my professional life, then deciding to step down at the end of my current contract is by far the most difficult," Ayre said.

Ayre, who grew up close to the team’s Anfield stadium, helped stabilize the team’s finances, which had been crippled by the inability of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to pay down debt following a leveraged buyout in 2007. Last year, the team announced its first profit in seven years.

Liverpool hasn’t secured the English title since 1990 and won its fifth European Cup -- a record for an English team -- a decade ago. Still, the team remains one of the most popular in global soccer, with a massive Asian fan base.

Ayre’s remaining time in charge is likely to be dominated by the completion of a 100 million pound stadium redevelopment project and by helping newly installed coach Jürgen Klopp bring in players to bolster the squad.

"In the remaining 15 months I have as CEO, I will continue to provide FSG, Jürgen, the players and all the brilliant staff at Liverpool ongoing strategic leadership and a smooth transition," Ayre said.