Steve Simon will relinquish his role as chief executive (CEO) of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) but will serve as executive chairman once a replacement has been hired.

Simon has been the organization’s CEO and chairman since 2015 but the WTA will now split the roles to allow “greater focus” on its goals moving forward.

The WTA has begun a “comprehensive” selection process for a new CEO, supported by global executive search firm Korn Ferry.

The CEO will be responsible for “managing and growing the operations of the WTA and its many initiatives” and report to Simon.

Once the position has been filled, Simon will assume the role of executive chairman and focus on governance, strategic interests of the WTA within the sport, integrity issues and the development of new markets and frontiers for the body.

In addition, Simon will continue to serve as chair of the WTA Ventures board.

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WTA Ventures, the governing body’s commercial arm, was founded as a joint venture partnership between the organization and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in March.

As part of the leadership restructure at the WTA, Micky Lawler, who has served as president since 2015, has decided to leave the organization at the end of the year to “pursue new opportunities.”

The WTA said the changes represent the latest step in its strategic development, which has led to the with collaboration with CVC and the creation of WTA Ventures.

The new structure will help the WTA to “secure its objectives of growing the game and delivering equal prize money for women by 2033.”

Simon said: “Following investment from CVC Capital Partners and the creation of WTA Ventures earlier this year, we are now moving ahead and implementing further change to ensure the WTA is well positioned for future opportunities.

“WTA Ventures is achieving significant progress under the leadership of CEO Marina Storti, and we are looking to replicate this model by bringing in additional operational expertise for the WTA Tour.

"By putting in place additional leadership capability and capacity, we are getting ready to accelerate the development of women’s tennis as the WTA moves beyond its 50th year.”

WTA Ventures recently announced a string of new appointments joining its executive leadership team, with Sarah Swanson (chief brand officer), Marijn De Wit (chief financial officer), and Aditya Shenoy (head of strategy development) all coming on board.

Russell Cleeve was hired as chief consumer and digital officer earlier in the year, while Sorti took charge as CEO in August.

The majority of the WTA Ventures board, meanwhile, was unveiled in April.