However, perhaps tellingly, Hierro not only stepped down as coach but is also not returning to his former role as sporting director. The public presentation of this exit has been managed well, with a statement from Hierro saying he had "declined" to return to his previous role and had opted to "undertake new challenges". But managing exits in any business can be difficult and, at worst, run the risk of causing damage to both parties.
High profile CEO resignations hit the headlines earlier this year for all the wrong reasons. Save the Children chairman Sir Alan Parker resigned in April, leaving the organisation 8 months earlier than originally planned, amid allegations relating to the conduct of ex-chief executive Justin Forsyth, in relation to inappropriate behaviour towards female staff which, it was alleged, the organisation had not adequately dealt with. Despite the early exit the message to the media has been clear - the organisation was grateful to Sir Alan for "the time and dedication he has invested in our important cause". Sir Alan's resignation letter made clear that the allegations against Mr Forsyth had been handled by HR and senior trustees, the matter was now being reviewed by the Charity Commission and he will work with them to assist in any way he can. On the face of it, a carefully managed exit.
Meanwhile, Sir Martin Sorrell's resignation from top advertising agency WPP triggered a 6.5% slide in the groups share price. The resignation was made with immediate effect on 14 April amid allegations of personal misconduct all of which are "unreservedly denied" by Sir Martin. While WPP investigated the allegations the company refused to publish the outcome. From the company's perspective the drop in share price represented a huge financial cost and Sir Martin, at 73 years of age, walked away under a cloud from what should have been a stellar career.
Of course, we don't know what went on behind the scenes in either of these scenarios but looking from the outside in, it seems that Save the Children have managed the exit of their top employee more successfully than WPP. Of course, executive terminations routinely arise in less high profile circumstances - a restructure, performance issues, the consequence of a change in major shareholders or simply a view that the face no longer fits, can easily pave the way for changes at the top.
Most businesses do not have the global reach nor the media interest in their activities that either Save the Children or WPP did, and while there was no protracted fight in the public eye between CEO and business or board in either case they still serve to highlight the importance of handling executive terminations effectively.
When you stop to think about what can be involved in an effectively managed termination it begins to become clear why things can veer off course. The agreement of the Board and appropriate handling of potential internal dissenters may be needed for both the termination itself and the package that is to be offered; a review of post termination restrictions to identify if any modifications are needed may be required; advice on taxation of any termination payment; ensuring any potential claims are identified and included in a settlement agreement for the benefit not only of the company but potentially its board, officers, employees and shareholders may be an issue; a draft internal agreement regarding the exit and potentially a press release may be needed; consideration of share options and their exercise and other bonus arrangements such as LTIPs and dealing with the resignation of any directorships may also be a requirement. Although not a legal issue there is also the consequence, particularly in smaller organisations, of parties having to deal with the consequence of the breakdown of what may have been close personal relationships.
For the senior executive involved, who may have known nothing of the termination until being summoned into a meeting which preceded being escorted from the premises, there will be immediate financial and reputational concerns - an agreed reference, departure statement, confidentiality and non-derogatory statement clauses plus the possibility of re-negotiation of restrictive covenants are likely to be a priority.
For all these reasons the exit of a senior executive is a scenario where legal advice should be taken at an early stage. Even if relationships have soured irreparably behind the scenes the public perception (whether that is the general public at large or simply within the sector the business carries on in) of the circumstances of an exit is something that all involved in the situation will want managed proactively and positively from the outset.