The CEO of online retail giant AO World is to step down.

Steve Caunce will leave the role and the company’s board with immediate effect, with founder John Roberts reappointed to the position he held until February 2017.

AO World said Caunce has decided to step back to a less demanding business role in a bid to re-balance his lifestyle.

Regarded as a key member of the group's management team for over 13 years, he will remain involved in the business on a part-time basis as an adviser to Roberts and the board.

Roberts originally left the CEO role to focus on innovation and development projects.

"Steve has played a vital part in AO's development and in the last two years has created the foundations for our future success,” said Roberts. “I look forward to continuing to work with him, as I have over the last 13 years.

"AO's future is incredibly bright given our depth of talent at all levels of the business.

“I am fully committed to the business and the execution of our focussed strategy and can't wait to get stuck in again as CEO as we move onto the next exciting stage of the AO story."

AO World grew revenue across the group by more than eight per cent in the final three months of last year.

The listed firm said Caunce has strengthened its organisation, senior management resources and operational plans while overseeing the rapid expansion of AO's continental European operations.

He also broadened its product categories, including through the acquisition of Mobile Phones Direct.

"It is a privilege to have played a significant part in AO's success and to have led the company for the last two years,” said Caunce.

“I have decided to step down at a time when I feel AO is well placed to continue to thrive as a leader in our sector. I look forward to contributing to the AO team as we execute our strategy."

AO chairman Geoff Cooper said: "Steve has significantly professionalised and upgraded our business and operating capabilities.

“He has established and strengthened management teams in the UK and continental Europe, who are both getting on with execution of our strategy.

“As chairman I have been impressed with his work as CEO; he has made a fundamental contribution over 13 years both in building AO into the business it is today and in setting out our commitment to delivering for shareholders going forward."

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