Kerr’s position had been rumoured to be in jeopardy since the tour’s players held a meeting at the Macau Open in October, where they voiced disquiet about the proposed creation of a mega-tour straddling the two continents and his handling of the merger.
A statement released to AFP said: “The Asian Tour has announced that its CEO Mike Kerr has left the organisation after three-and-a-half years in the role.”
No reason was given for the departure of the former senior executive at the ESPN STAR Sports TV channel, and the statement did not say whether he would be replaced.
The merger proposal has prompted fears from some players that it would lead to diminished playing opportunities and that they could be squeezed out by the bigger, more powerful European Tour.
“We are waiting still for our concerns to be addressed,” Asian Tour elder statesman Thongchai Jaidee told AFP last month when asked about the meeting in Macau.
But European Tour CEO Keith Pelley revealed in Dubai recently that he had also met the players in Macau, and they had given the green light to continue negotiations.
“I went over to Macau to spoke to the Asian Tour members for close to an hour,” said Pelley.
“Shortly thereafter, there was a vote that was a positive vote for them to continue to give their board authorisation to continue with the negotiation,” he told a press conference at the DP World Tour Championship last month.
But Pelley conceded there were players who were hostile to the move.
“I had correspondence over the last 24 hours with a critical member from the Asian Tour about the different opportunities,” he said.
“I believe that we will have a relationship with the Asian Tour. I believe the conversations will continue.”
– ‘Some players are not happy’ –
But the picture remains far from clear now with Kerr, tasked with pushing the merger through on the Asian side, now gone.
“Our next conversations are going to be with key player representatives from the respective regions,” said Pelley.
Kerr had seemed upbeat when speaking to AFP at a golf business forum in Shanghai last month, claiming he had allayed players’ fears.
“We have addressed their fears in the way we have structured the partnership,” said Kerr. “What I can say very confidently is that no Asian professional is going to lose any opportunity.”
Thailand star Kiradech Aphibarnrat said while he had been happy with the way the Northern Irishman had conducted the negotiations, others were not.
“Some players are not happy with Mike Kerr. Some players are happy with Mike Kerr,” Kiradech told AFP at last month’s BMW Masters. “For me he is the businessman. He gets things done. He is a good guy.”
Asian Tour chairman Kyi Hla Han paid tribute to Kerr’s achievements since taking over in 2012.
“During his tenure, Mike introduced a more corporate direction to the tour and enhanced the structure of the management team.” Han said in a statement.
“We would like to thank Mike for his contribution and wish him well.” – Agence France-Presse