The head of Marks & Spencer's beleaguered clothing division has quit after nearly three decades at the retailer.
Shares fell today after John Dixon said he was leaving "this great company" after being given the chance to become chief executive at another firm.
Mr Dixon had been seen as a potential successor to current M&S chief executive Marc Bolland, who has been in charge since 2010.
He is stepping down from the board with immediate effect and will leave the company at a date to be agreed, the group said.
Mr Dixon has been with Marks for more than 26 years, starting his career as a store manager, and undertaking a successful spell in charge of its food division from 2008 before taking over general merchandise in October 2012.
The division, which includes clothing and homewares, has continued to struggle, with a setback in the most recent quarter as like-for-like sales fell. In the previous quarter they had risen for the first time after 14 successive periods of decline.
M&S also faced well-publicised criticism over its clothing range from one of its own former designers at its annual general meeting recently.
Mr Dixon's responsibilities will be taken over by Steve Rowe, who had previously succeeded him as head of the food division.
The departing executive said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed many happy and successful years at M&S. I now have the opportunity to become a chief executive and have therefore resigned from this great company."
Analysts at Jefferies said: "This is a blow to M&S but with Steve Rowe stepping into Dixon's shoes, we believe the M&S recovery can continue relatively unscathed."