Smith has been under fire since Sešn Doran, the ENO's CEO and artistic director, left the company in November. Rather than conducting a search for a new artistic director, Smith and the ENO board rapidly replaced him with two staffers promoted from within. On December 16, a group of prominent British musicians and other artists issued an open letter calling for Smith to step down.
In a letter to the board of the ENO, Smith acknowledged that it would "no longer serve the best interests of ENO to continue in office." But he said that the pressure on him to resign was unfair. "The company is in the best shape it has been for many years," he wrote. "Yet the media along with certain members of the arts community...are campaigning with relentless vigour to force me to step down."
Smith, an investment banker, has been a member of the ENO's board since 2000 and its chair since 2001. He oversaw the renovation of the London Coliseum, where the ENO performs, and led the company through a financial crisis, but he also made many enemies when he forced out general director Nicholas Payne in 2002. His choice of Doran to replace Payne also drew criticism.
Vernon Ellis, the international chairman of the Accenture consulting company and the ENO's deputy chairman, will replace Smith on an interim basis.