'It's time to embrace a new challenge' - New Ipswich chief announces Bristol City exit

Bristol City Chief Executive Officer Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton will leave Bristol City to become Ipswich Town's new CEO at the end of the season. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Mark Ashton has announced that he will be leaving his role as Bristol City chief executive at the end of this season, with it understood he will be taking up the same position at Ipswich Town.

Town's new American owners, along with new chairman Mike O’Leary, have made hiring a ‘top quality’ CEO their first priority since buying the club from Marcus Evans in a deal understood to be worth in the region of £40m.

Ashton and O’Leary have worked together previously, both at Oxford United and previously at West Bromwich Albion. They have also both served as directors of investment firm Alycidon Ltd, formerly Ensco 1070, from 2014 to 2015. 

Ashton, who has also previously spent the best part of five years on the board at Watford, said in a statement: “I want to thank the Lansdown family for their support over the last five years. It’s been an incredible role and a privilege to be the CEO of Bristol City.

“I want to give credit to the staff who have worked tirelessly here and who I will miss very much. The club is in excellent hands with such dedicated and passionate people.

“During my time here, it has been a priority to steer the club in a proper and stable way, to see the integration of the academy and women’s team into a one-club structure, and of course to see the completion of the Robins High Performance Centre.

“The club is in a great position to take the next step forward and it feels like now is the right time for myself to move on and embrace a new challenge.”

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Bristol City owner Steve Lansdown said: “I’ve enjoyed working closely with Mark throughout his time here. It’s disappointing to see him go but I understand there comes a time in everyone’s career when they want to take on a new challenge.

“Mark has been an integral part of what we have created over the last few years and he has helped build a strong foundation for the club to move forward from. His work as an EFL Director has also been of benefit in raising the club’s profile.

“I’d like to thank Mark for all his work and everyone at Bristol City wish him the best for the future.”

Ashton was named Championship CEO of the year in 2019, having earned great praise for his dealings in the transfer market which have netted City millions of pounds through selling players on to the Premier League. 

Adam Webster is a good example of that, with Ashton brokering the deal which took him from Portman Road to Ashton Gate for an initial £3.5m in 2018, before selling him to Brighton for more than £20m.

Reports in Bristol have suggested opinion has become split among supporters in recent years, though, said to be due to an increasing role in the club's recruitment strategy.

Current Ipswich boss Paul Cook was heavily linked to Bristol City both last July and in February when the Robins were searching for a new manager. City ultimately appointed Dean Holden and Nigel Pearson respectively at those moments, with the Bristol Post reporting that Cook was not deemed 'the right cultural fit' last summer.

Speaking last week, when asked about his search for a chief executive, O’Leary said: “Recruitment is always a bit of a varying subject in terms of completion dates and timing. I’d love to tell you it will be two days from now but I’m not that good at predictions. It could be a week, it could be a couple of months.   

“What we will do is make sure we get the right candidates and, when we’ve found them, we’ll do our utmost to get them in position as soon as we can. 

"We’ve got a process underway and we’ve got people we’re looking at. There is timing for when we can recruit which really hinges on circumstances for the people we are examining.  

“I know Mark (Ashton) very well, have done for a long time and he’s a good guy. But I’m not going to speculate on people further at this point. It’s too early.” 

The Blues are in action against AFC Wimbledon this evening (6.30pm ko). 

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