Nick Gatfield, the CEO of Sony Music UK, has resigned from the company in a surprise move that has shocked the British music industry.

Media reports said Gatfield's exit was announced at Sony Music's Kensington headquarters with no explanation.

"It was an amicable decision for Nick to leave the company at this time. We wish him the best in his future endeavours," a spokesman for the second-biggest record label in Britain said.

Gatfield was in contract negotiations with the chiefs of the company's American parent before his sudden departure, the Telegraph reported.

He joined Sony Music two and a half years ago, replacing Ged Doherty, after serving Universal and EMI in senior executive roles. Under the leadership of Gatfield, Sony Music UK's One Direction had the biggest selling artist album in 2013.

For the year ending in March 2013, Sony Music UK reported revenues of £205.5m ($342.5m, €250.3m), up 7.6% from last year.

Prior to joining Sony, Gatfield had served as EMI Music president of new music for North America and president of Universal Island Records. Gatfield, a former musician and A&R man, worked closely with Universal artists including Keane, Sugababes, and the late Amy Winehouse.

When he was hired in 2011, Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris described him as "an accomplished music executive with a successful A&R background, strong senior management experience, and a special understanding of the artist community".

A replacement for Gatfield has been decided by Sony management, but has yet to be announced, according to industry publication Music Week.