Arsenal announce Ivan Gazidis departure as CEO ahead of AC Milan move

Arsenal have announced the resignation of CEO Ivan Gazidis, ahead of a move to AC Milan.

Gazidis, who took over at Arsenal in January 2009, has long been linked with an exit from Arsenal. Earlier this month, head coach Unai Emery admitted he was in the dark over the 53-year-old's future.

Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham will lead the club in the wake of Gazidis' departure. Gazidis will continue at Arsenal until Oct. 31 as he oversees a handover period and he is due to start in his new role at Milan on Dec. 1.

In an open letter on the official Arsenal website, Gazidis wrote: "For the last 10 years I have been privileged to dedicate myself to this great club. Arsenal is entering a new chapter and I have done everything I can to ensure that it is strongly placed to take on that challenge. This includes world-class facilities and outstanding leaders in every sector who carry the values of the club, including, of course, Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham in whom I have enormous faith.

"I am now looking forward to joining one of the world's other great clubs, AC Milan, and working to restore it to its rightful place in football. Until then, I will continue to devote absolutely all my energy until my last day to ensure an orderly transition for the benefit of Arsenal Football Club.

"I am excited and energised for the future for myself and for Arsenal Football Club and I will always hold it in my heart."

Gazidis spent much of his tenure in the shadow of Arsene Wenger, whose influence over most matters at the club far exceeded that of his boss. But he was crucial in overseeing the transition into the post-Wenger era, which he started preparing for immediately after the Frenchman was handed a new two-year contract last summer.

He brought in Sanllehi from Barcelona, hired Borussia Dortmund's chief scout Sven Mislintat as the club's new head of recruitment, and appointed Australian fitness expert Darren Burgess into a new role as director of high performance.

When Wenger stepped down in May, Gazidis led the process of hiring Emery as head coach, the final step toward creating a new structure that was more in line with most other top clubs. It was by far the most active period of Gazidis' decade at the club, and his decision to step away just months after embarking on the Emery era caught many by surprise. However, Gazidis also has connections to Milan's new owners, the Elliott Management hedge fund. as a long-time friend of the fund's co-founder Paul Singer.

Club chairman Sir Chips Keswick said: "Ivan has led Arsenal with skill and dedication and leaves us in a strong position. The club has been transformed and he has recruited talented people, such as Raul, Vinai and of course Unai Emery, who will take us to future success."

The boardroom shuffle is the latest round of upheaval at the club. Arsene Wenger departed after nearly 22 seasons as manager in May. In August, Alisher Usmanov agreed to sell his 30 percent stake in the club to majority owner Stan Kroenke.

Josh Kroenke, deputy chairman of Arsenal's majority owner Kroenke Sports and Entertainment UK, said: "It has been a pleasure working with Ivan. We will miss the wisdom, insight, and energy he brought to our club on a daily basis over the past decade. We are confident we have outstanding people in Raul and Vinai, and we look forward to working with them and coach Unai Emery to continue to move the club forward on and off the pitch."

Gazidis added: "Although it is very hard to do -- the hardest decision of my life -- I believe that, after 10 years, it is the right time for me to step aside to allow new leadership, energy and ideas to take the club forward into this exciting new era. I believe in the positive force of change, both for me and for the club. While this is the most difficult and challenging course for me, I am excited to see what the future holds for this great club and I am energised by a new personal challenge with AC Milan."

AC Milan said in a statement: "In hiring Mr. Gazidis as CEO, AC Milan brings on board a world-class football executive with a track record of sporting and commercial success across the globe."

Paolo Scaroni, Executive Chairman at AC Milan, said: "On behalf of the Board and the entire AC Milan community, we proudly welcome Ivan Gazidis to the club. The CEO role is one we have prioritised from day one of this project and one we have worked diligently upon to get right. Ivan Gazidis will bring an unparalleled level of business acumen and football industry experience to the club. He helped establish professional football in the United States; he brought Arsenal to new heights; and we can't wait for him to get started here in Milan. The fundamentals are now in place for success, which we recognise will take time, hard work, and perseverance."