Punch chief Giles Thorley said he expects his successor to be named by the end of April, and confirmed that final interviews were taking place currently "with a number of good candidates".
Speaking to ThePublican.com after news of his departure broke this morning, Thorley dismissed claims he was leaving Punch in the lurch. He said he felt he had seen the company through the worst and that the time was right to pass on the leadership of the UK's largest pub company.
"I've done all the stuff that needed to be done and the next era will be different," he added. "We have got to a sort of pregnant pause politically and I feel there is now a lot of clarity for a new leader to take things forward."
Commenting on speculation over the timing of the announcement, Thorley said it was inevitable that there would be interest in the announcement but that it was made as final interviews were being conducted to head off any leaks that might have occured. He said he would be staying on until the summer to ensure a smooth transition with his successor.
"The only way you can go quickly is when you're being thrown out - and that's not my style," he said.
Asked if he was likely to re-emerge in another pub trade role he all but ruled this out.
"When you've run Manchester United why would you want to run anything else," he said, adding that he had huge respect for his Punch colleagues and would find it very difficult to work with any other team within the pub sector.