Paul Walker, CEO of Sage, is leaving the accountancy software company after 26 years.

He recently notified Sage’s board of his decision to stand down as chief executive, a position he has held for 16 years.

In a statement, the company said: "A process of management succession is under way and both Paul and the board are working towards a seamless transition."

The 52-year-old Walker reportedly told the board that he wanted to leave while he is "young enough for fresh challenges". It is understood that he could leave Sage at some time this year.

Meanwhile, Sage has denied a Sunday Times report saying that it had hired headhunter Russell Reynolds Associates to search for Walker's successor, saying that a consultancy would be taken on "in due course'. The newspaper had also said that the recruiter would consider both external and internal candidates, with the latter including finance director Paul Harrison and Sage’s UK and Ireland boss Paul Stobart.

Prior to his CEO role at Sage, Walker was the finance director for seven years. He started at the company as a company accountant in 1984.

Veteran industry analyst Richard Holway of said: "Paul Walker took Sage into the FTSE100 where, unlike most other UK tech companies, it has stayed." While highlighting the achievements of the compnay, Holway added, "Sage does face new challenges – not least from the Cloud where, frankly, Sage seems to have made rather half-hearted attempts. It might regret that when more ‘fleet-of-foot’ newcomers come eat their lunch."