The executive who built Future into one of Britain’s biggest listed digital media companies is preparing to step up next year after nearly a decade at the helm.

Sky News has learned that Zillah Byng-Thorne, chief executive of Future since April 2014, has been informed by the company’s chairman that she will be stepping down as editor of Country Life and FourFourTwo magazine in the next 18 months.

Media industry insiders expect Ms Byng-Thorne to step down in mid-2023.

The formal search process has yet to be initiated by Richard Huntingford, Future’s chairman, but the news of his immediate departure is likely to trigger interest from executives across the digital and publishing sectors.

This week, Ms Byng-Thorne was appointed chair of trustees at Trustpilot, the online reviews platform.

City insiders expect her to replace Tim Weller, the president of Trustpilot, during her tenure.

He also has extensive experience as a director of other review companies, including THG, an online retailer of health and beauty products, from which he resigned this week.

Trainline and Auto Mercator Group are among other boards on which Ms Byng-Thorne has served.

Under his tenure, Future has become one of the winners of London’s medium-sized asset listings, a trend development sector that is careful not to anticipate changes in the coming years.

Last year, Ms Byng-Thorne secured a £300m deal from Dennis Publishing, which added current affairs magazine The Week to its portfolio of Future titles.

Shares have fallen by more than half in the past year as digital and technology stocks have seen investors flee, but the statistic doesn’t reflect the impact the veteran CEO has had on the business.

Initially set up as a financial leader in 2013, Future had a market capitalization of just £30m at the time Ms Byng-Thorne took over as chief executive.

On Friday, its shares closed at 1657p, giving it a market capitalization of just over £2bn.

As well as a stable of magazine titles, Future owns GoCo, a price comparison service, and operates a number of brands from e-commerce and event-based revenue streams.

Other prominent brands include TechRadar, Marie Claire and Who What to Wear.

Ms Byng-Thorne does not have the success of Future’s course, but she has defended it from investor criticism over the size of the payout packages.

In February, a majority of shareholders voted against plans for a joint plan that could have handed out 95m to himself and other senior executives.

Some urban organizations believe, however, that Ms Byng-Thorne has not been adequately compensated for the value she has created for Future investors.

The company was involved with partners.

A spokeswoman for Future on Saturday said the company was not making “speculative comments” about its future CEO.

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