The Rugby Football Union is reeling after Steve Brown announced he is to step down as chief executive at the end of the year.
Brown will leave after only 16 months in the role having replaced Ian Ritchie in September 2017, ending a seven-year association with Twickenham which began with his appointment as chief financial officer.
Press Association Sport understands that Brown had grown weary of the internal politics at the governing body and that the decision to resign was his own.
The RFU has been plunged into turmoil by his departure, which comes nine months out from the World Cup and in the wake of stinging criticism from former chief executive Francis Baron.
Baron produced a report accusing Twickenham of financial mismanagement after 64 redundancies were made during the summer despite record revenues being generated for 2016 and 2017.
The RFU disputes a number of his claims which are based on its published accounts only and he has not worked since departing in 2010.
Brown said: “This has been a very difficult decision for me to make and I informed the RFU board earlier this week that the time is right for me to step down and take some time out.
“I’ve loved my time in rugby and am deeply proud to have made a contribution to a sport I love.
“It has been a fascinating seven-and-a-half years and a great honour to lead the RFU over the last 14 months. I am proud of the people who make up the union.
“I’m sad to leave, but the Union is in good shape, with an excellent leadership team in place.”
Brown declared his rise to chief executive as the “job of a lifetime” upon his appointment only to be ground down by the intrigue at the game’s largest and richest union.
“The RFU staff are very sad. Steve is a popular leader and greatly admired and respected for his decency. He will be missed,” an RFU spokeswoman said.
Director of professional rugby Nigel Melville will act as interim chief executive until a replacement is found.
Baron alleges there has been a cumulative net loss of £46.4million since 2012 and questioned the revised cost of the new East Stand hospitality facility, which rose from £54m to £81m.
Brown said in August that the redundancies were to help offset rising fixed costs against an outlook of plateauing or reduced profit.
He oversaw delivery of the 2015 World Cup on these shores following Debbie Jevans’ resignation and in January awarded England head coach Eddie Jones a contract extension lasting until 2021, dependent on results at Japan 2019.
He has also been involved in negotiations over the new season structure, which was revealed last month.
RFU chairman Andy Cosslett said: “This is a sad day for the union. Steve has made a huge contribution to the RFU during his time here. He has been a pivotal figure during a long period of sustained growth.
“Steve’s tireless work ethic and selfless attitude has won him the respect of all who know him and the game will be extremely sad to see him go.”