Susanna Dinnage, the British Animal Planet executive who was poised to take a seat as one of the most powerful women in international sports as head of the English Premier League, declined that post on Sunday night, with no explanation.
Her decision, reported first by the British press, has sent the soccer body into a scramble for a new leader. Dinnage, who is expected to return to her post at Animal Planet or another job with parent Discovery Inc., apparently surprised league executives with her decision.
“Despite her commitment to the Premier League in early November, Susanna Dinnage has now advised the Nominations Committee that she will not be taking up the position of chief executive,” the EPL said in a statement. “The Committee has reconvened its search and is talking to candidates. There will be no further comment until an appointment is made.”
The EPL, one of the more powerful organizations in international sport, named Dinnage as its new CEO in November, and she was set to replace the retiring Richard Scudamore in January. The league said in a statement that it has restarted its search and is talking to potential candidates.
A Discovery spokesperson confirmed that Dinnage will return to her former job at Animal Planet, but had no further comment.
As global president of Animal Planet, Dinnage oversaw teams in both the U.K. and the U.S. Known as a savvy negotiator – she has played a key role in reaching distribution deals for the channel with British satellite TV giant Sky – that skill was expected to be especially helpful to the EPL, whose television deal expires at the end of the current season.