David Pemsel has walked away from a new job as chief executive of the English Premier League before he could take up the role, following revelations in a tabloid newspaper about his private life.
In October, Mr Pemsel, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, which owns The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, was announced as the next head of English football’s top division. The appointment followed a difficult year-long search for a successor to Richard Scudamore, who had stepped down after 19 years running the organisation.
On Thursday, The Sun newspaper printed allegations about Mr Pemsel, who is married, that were related to private and personal messages sent to a woman described as a former member of staff at The Guardian. This led the 20 member clubs of the Premier League to initiate discussions about Mr Pemsel’s role.
On Friday, the Premier League released a statement, saying: “Following media disclosures earlier this week and discussions with David Pemsel, the Premier League has today accepted David’s resignation and he will no longer be joining as chief executive.”
Mr Pemsel had been due to start the role “no later than April 2020” and the Premier League had begun the search for a new chairman to work alongside him.
The organisation said Richard Masters, interim chief executive, would continue in the post, but made no further comment.
Representatives for Mr Pemsel and The Guardian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Pemsel’s selection by the Premier League had come after Susanna Dinnage, a senior executive at media group Discovery, accepted the position only to withdraw without explanation weeks later. The second choice, Tim Davie, the chief executive of BBC Studios, then turned down the job.
This led the Premier League to switch headhunting firms this year to widen its search. It was during this reframed effort that Mr Pemsel was identified as a candidate by a recruitment panel led by Bruce Buck, chairman of Chelsea Football Club.
The Premier League is the richest domestic football competition in the world, with its clubs sharing the proceeds of existing three-year broadcasting contracts running to 2022 worth £9.2bn.
Mr Pemsel joined Guardian Media Group in July 2015 and has been credited with pushing the left-leaning UK newspaper group further into online publishing as well as making significant cost cuts. The moves have helped return the organisation to profitability after decades of losses.