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16 January 2014, 06:21
Southampton have confirmed the resignation of executive chairman Nicola Cortese, in a statement on the club's Twitter feed.
The Italian was appointed to the post in 2009 after being instrumental in the purchase of the south coast outfit that year by Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr, and Cortese has since overseen the Saints' rise from League One to the Barclays Premier League.
It is understood that Cortese has quit due to divisions between him and Katharina Liebherr, who became the club's owner after the death of her father Markus in 2010.
The news about Cortese is likely to cast doubt over the future of Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino.
There was talk of Cortese considering his position in May, and Pochettino subsequently warned he too would leave Southampton if the chairman chose to do so.
''I would not understand staying in this role if Nicola was not here," the Argentinian, appointed as successor to Nigel Adkins in January 2013, said at the time.
"The person that actually called me from the start, told me about the project and put their faith in me was Nicola.
''I have great respect as well for Southampton, the club and the supporters, but Nicola has been the one that has placed his trust and faith in me.
''I wouldn't see myself in this club if it was not for him.
''I think I am a very transparent person, a very honest person.
''We are on the same wavelength about the club and the future of the club so it really would not make any sense if I was at this club and he was not."
Having entered administration just prior to the Liebherr takeover, Southampton began 45-year-old Cortese's first season as chairman with a 10-point deduction but soon rose from the bottom of the third tier.
They achieved back-to-back promotions in 2010/11 and 2011/12 as Adkins, brought in as a replacement for Alan Pardew, guided them to the Championship and then Premier League.
And after the controversial sacking of Adkins, Pochettino led the Saints to a 14th-placed finish last term, with them ending their comeback top-flight campaign five points clear of the relegation zone.
Southampton are currently ninth in the table.