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Shock as West Brom chief executive Ron Gourlay to depart The Hawthorns

Albion chief executive Ron Gourlay is to depart The Hawthorns this summer after tendering his resignation.

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The Scot offered his resignation in March and, having served some of his notice period, it has been confirmed he will leave and begin gardening leave from June 14.

Gourlay, 60, has been solely running the football operations at The Hawthorns and the club’s training ground since his appointment as chief executive in February 2022.

The news comes as Albion face financial and operational uncertainty under controlling shareholder Guochuan Lai. Recently-published accounts to June 2022 confirmed, due to a lack of investment, Albion must sell players this summer to continue as a going concern.

Albion have said in a statement an update about his replacement as chief executive will follow “in due course”.

In August, Gourlay resigned as director of WBA Group, of which the club is a subsidiary. Xu Ke remains the sole director of WBA Group. The reason given was so the Scot could focus solely on football matters.

Gourlay previously served as chief executive at Chelsea and Reading prior to his move to The Hawthorns, initially in an consultancy role to the club’s board, in July 2021.

He took over the chief executive post from Ke (Ken) seven months later as Ken remained in place as WBA Group director. At the same time Lai took on the role as chairman from Li Piyue.

Former Manchester United employee Gourlay immediately appointed Steve Bruce, a move which failed to bring success and the chief executive later received criticism for allowing the experienced Bruce to continue in charge as the club slipped down the Championship.

But Gourlay was hailed for his appointment of Carlos Corberan shortly afterwards.

He built a relationship with supporter groups and was present for official meetings with the Albion Assembly.

More recently, as turbulence and uncertainty continued to grow at The Hawthorns, Gourlay met with pressure group Action for Albion – with whom he engaged in healthy dialogue – and maintained strong relations with minority shareholder representatives Shareholders for Albion (S4A).

Gourlay, who was based mostly at the club’s Walsall training ground, was repeatedly promised by chairman Lai that the controversial £5million Wisdom Smart Corporation loan would be repaid – but deadlines continued to be missed.

During his latest public dialogue with the local press in January, the chief executive maintained he had had continued assurance the loan would be repaid. He also did so in meetings with pressure groups, the last of which was March 7. Gourlay insisted he made daily checks as to its repayment.

This followed WBA Group, with Ken as sole director, taking a £20m loan with interest rates of more than 14 per cent from a US equity firm MSD Holdings after Gourlay had been told firmly by Lai there would be no other investment. The chief executive told the press it would act as a safety net and fund operational matters.

In February, following interest from Corberan’s former club Leeds of the Premier League, Gourlay negotiated a new two-year extension on the head coach’s deal, to 2027.

Gourlay’s exit has been confirmed during a public transparency dispute between Group director Ken and S4A.

The club’s minority shareholders have set Ken a deadline of next Tuesday to satisfy their requests for information on operational and financial matters or have warned necessary legal steps will be taken.

During the latest communications with the director, S4A chiefs reaffirmed a strong working relationship with Gourlay and director of communications Ian Skidmore.