The Chairman of the tourism body, VisitScotland, admitted to the
Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee
he told the tourism quango's long-serving chief executive it was time for him to go.
Dr Mike Cantlay condemned what he described as a "scurrilous" and "malicious" leak to the media about the departure of its longstanding Chief Executive Philip Riddle, on 16 June 2010.
Mr Riddle is thought to be negotiating a severance package, while the agency has appointed an acting replacement, Malcolm Roughead.
He said: "It was the unanimous view of the board that now was probably the right time for a change of chief executive, and, as chairman, it was delegated to me to communicate the view of the board to Philip."
VisitScotland's board met on the 14 May.
Finance Secretary John Swinney then told the committee the first he had heard of the issue relating to the chief executive was on 30 May, after reading the Sunday Herald report on Visitscotland.
Committee convener Lib Dem MSP Iain Smith said it was "staggering" Mr Swinney had not been informed of the board's decision.
The minister said it was important to maintain a distance between the sponsoring government department and non departmental public bodies.
The committee then continued with its inquiry into the public sector's support for exporters, international trade and the attraction of inward investment, again quizzing Mr Swinney.