Daily Express editor Peter Hill is to step down from the role he has occupied for just over seven years to be replaced by his deputy Hugh Whittow.
Hill, who is approaching his 65th birthday, notified staff last night that he was planning to leave the paper later this month.
Express Newspapers confirmed his departure and the appointment of Whittow as his replacement in a statement issued this morning.
Hill said: ‘It has been a huge privilege to edit two great national newspapers and now it’s time to explore new directions.
‘I want to thank my colleagues for their unstinting support and enthusiasm.’
Richard Desmond, chairman of Express Newspapers, said: ‘Peter has been a tremendous asset to the company. We all wish him and his family well for the future.”
Hill was appointed editor of the Express in December, 2003 after the abrupt departure of Chris Williams, who had edited the paper for the previous three years.
Prior to his appointment, Hill had been editor of the Daily Star for five years, similarly owned by Desmond, where he had been since 1978, having previously been deputy editor, associate editor, night editor and chief sub.
Hill has also worked at the Colne Valley Guardian, Huddersfield Examiner, Manchester Evening News, Oldham Chronicle, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and People earlier in his career.
His replacement, Whittow, was deputy editor to Hill at The Daily Star and also acted as launch editor of the Sunday Star in 2002 before following Hill to the Express shortly after his appointment as editor.
During his time at the helm of the Express, Hill has presided over a paper which, like almost all other nationals, suffered a large drop in circulation.
In 2003, the paper had a daily circulation of around 930,000. By last month that had fallen to a daily average of 623,689 – according to figures supplied by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
In recent years the Express has been criticised for what some see as an obsession with the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana.
More serious was its controversial coverage following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann while on holiday with her parents Gerry and Kate in Praia da Luz, Portugal in 2007.
Scores of Daily Express stories implied the involvement of Gerry and Kate McCann in the disappearance and possible death of their three-year-old daughter.
In March 2008, Express Newspapers (the Star titles and both Express titles) paid £550,000 in damages to the McCanns and ran a front page apology after a High Court action.