Smith had agreed to stay on as chief beyond his original retirement date of 1 August last year until June this year because of the trading conditions last summer and the group’s debt refinancing and rights issue.
But in a statement to the stock market yesterday, the company said he would be leaving ahead of that schedule in order to take up a series non executive positions.
Paul Tallentire, deputy chief executive, will continue to manage day to day operations. Northgate, which rents out light commercial vehicles in Britain, Ireland and Spain, said in March that business had improved in the UK and Spain after a £195m overall loss last year.
Northgate chairman Bob Mackenzie said: “Steve Smith has been an integral part of the group for over two decades, including ten years as chief executive, and the board is very grateful for the commitment and leadership he has shown throughout his tenure.
“During his career at Northgate, the rental fleet has increased from 2,500 vehicles to approximately 109,000, spread across the UK and Spain. We are very grateful to him.”