David Moffett shocked the Welsh Rugby Union by resigning as its group chief executive on Thursday.
David Moffett has been the WRU chief executive since 2002
He is stepping down because of family reasons and will leave his post on 31 December to live in New Zealand.
The Australian, 58, joined the WRU in December 2002 and set about reducing close to £60m of debt and overseeing Wales' move towards regional rugby.
Under his stewardship the WRU has turned a £3.7m annual loss into a pre-tax profit of £3.6m for 2004/2005.
On the pitch, Wales went from a wooden spoon in the 2003 Six Nations to their first Grand Slam for 28 years in 2005.
Moffett said: "My reasons for leaving are personal and family and I don't have another job to go to, but we will be returning to live in New Zealand.
"In many respects it's a lot like Wales and we've loved every minute of living in Wales, but our families are down in that part of the world."
In March 2004 Moffett signed a four-year extension to his initial contract - thought to be worth more than £200,000 a year - which was set to take him up until 2008.
The WRU will not replace Moffett, instead asking WRU general manager Steve Lewis and Millennium Stadium general manager Paul Sergeant to take over the responsibilities jointly.
WRU chairman David Pickering said: "On behalf of the WRU Group, I must put on record our grateful thanks to David Moffett for his outstanding contribution over the past three years.
"He has made a huge difference to the business of the WRU Group and to the fortunes of the Welsh rugby both on and off the field."
Moffett - who was born in Doncaster and emigrated to Australia more than 40 years ago - beat off more than 100 applicants for the post when he was hired in 2002.
His appointment came two weeks after he quit as the head of Sport England, citing frustrations with excessive bureaucracy while driving through a modernisation plan.
His task with Welsh rugby was a similar one, tackling head-on the outdated structure and self-interest that was holding Wales back.
But Moffett's reforms, which this last year has proved a success, did not come without a cost.
One controversial cost-cutting measure was the scrapping of the Wales 'A' team, which has yet to be reinstated.
The move from nine top-flight clubs to five regional sides saw smaller clubs lose out in the reshuffle.
Caerphilly were brushed aside, while Ebbw Vale found themselves increasingly marginalised by the financially stronger Newport half of the Newport-Gwent Dragons.
The rugby heartland around Pontypridd has also lost its way in the brave new regional world.
First came an unhappy and uncomfortable pairing with Bridgend as the Celtic Warriors.
Then when the former Warriors owner Leighton Samuel handed control of the regional side over to the WRU, the governing body took the decision to wind up the team.
That event is still subject to an ongoing legal action between Samuel and the WRU.
Moffett had wanted just four regional sides in his original plan, before compromising on five and there is still much enmity from the Welsh valleys towards the Australian.
But Moffett has never been one to worry about upsetting people when he has a task to do.
In a previous role Moffett became chief executive at the National Rugby League in Australia in 1999, shortly after it had moved to a 14-team competition.
That move had seen the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Australia's oldest club, kicked out of the competition after refusing to merge.
The Rabbitohs and Moffett kept the lawyers busy as the club sought a reinstatement.
Moffett has also been executive director of the New South Wales Rugby Union and the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union.
He steered the NZRFU from amateur status to one of the country's top 200 companies during his time there.
Moffett has worked a similar financial success in Wales, undertaking an important restructuring of the debt to reduce the WRU's liabilities as well as cutting costs.
But while not everyone will mourn his departure, Moffett's reign has undoubtedly benefited Wales and he leaves the WRU in far better shape than he found it.