BBC director of sport Peter Salmon is leaving to become chief executive of independent production company the TV Corporation.
The BBC secured the rights to the FA Cup under Peter Salmon
He was given the sport job in 2000 after three years as BBC One controller by then director general Greg Dyke.
During his tenure, the BBC regained rights to the Derby, the Six Nations, the FA Cup and Premiership highlights.
Mr Salmon has been overseeing plans to move parts of the BBC, including the sport division, to Manchester.
Mr Salmon, 48, married former Coronation Street actress Sarah Lancashire in 2001.
The following year, he presided over the BBC's Summer of Sport, featuring the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Sport Relief.
Mr Salmon earned £289,000 in 2004, a year which was considered one of the BBC's most successful in recent years for sport coverage.
Among other things, BBC Sport broadcast live coverage of the FA Cup final, Euro 2004, the Olympics, Wimbledon, the Open golf championship, the Grand National and the Derby.
"I leave BBC Sport at the top of its game, rejuvenated and reinvigorated with big audiences and major awards stacking up," Mr Salmon said on Thursday.
"But the Television Corporation's ambitious plans are just too tempting to turn down."
BBC Sport's head of major events, Dave Gordon, will take over from Mr Salmon when he leaves in the summer, until a permanent successor is found.
BBC director general Mark Thompson hailed Mr Salmon's combination of "business and creative brilliance with being an inspirational leader of people".
"He has the respect and affection of everyone he works with," he said.
Television Corporation chairman Tom Chandos said Mr Salmon was known as "a driving force for popular, high-quality programming".
The BBC won back the rights to the Six Nations rugby in 2002
Sport will feature heavily in Mr Salmon's new role at the Television Corporation, one of the UK's leading independent companies.
It produces some BBC horse racing coverage and a range of sport shows for Channel 4 and Five.
It also makes factual programmes, with a portfolio including Question Time, Queen and Country and Traffic Cops for BBC One, Britain's Worst... for Five and Unreported World for Channel 4.
While head of BBC One, Mr Salmon was responsible for commissioning hits including Dinnerladies, Holby City, Doctors, Clocking Off, My Family and the fourth weekly EastEnders episode.
Mr Salmon's new company already produces BBC racing coverage
But he got into a public spat with Noel Edmonds when he cancelled his House Party and the channel was criticised by the BBC's board of governors for lacking ambition.
Before that, he was Granada's programme director, where he oversaw programmes including World in Action and Cold Feet and managed Coronation Street's move to four nights a week.
He also devised the Manchester United TV channel MUFC TV and has worked as Channel 4's controller of factual programmes.
His TV career began at the BBC, where he was a producer and series editor for shows like Crimewatch UK.
His move into television came after stints as a local newspaper reporter, a government press officer and a teacher with Voluntary Service Overseas. He has six sons.