Tom Penn, who helped guide LAFC into existence then oversaw its climb to the top of the Major League Soccer standings, is stepping down as club president after nearly six years.

Penn, who will remain a consultant for LAFC, will become CEO of Co.Protect, a Los Angeles-based business venture he recently co-founded to provide branded COVID-19 protective equipment to MLS and other leagues, companies and municipal organizations, the club said.

Larry Freedman, LAFC’s chief business officer, and John Thorrington, the team’s general manager and executive vice president of soccer operations, will share the interim role of president.

One of LAFC’s original owners, Penn helped develop the team’s culture and led the drive to build Banc of California Stadium, the most expensive soccer-specific venue in MLS history, on the site of the Sports Arena. LAFC has sold out all 39 MLS games it has played in the 22,500-seat stadium.

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“From the beginning Tom had a clear vision of what LAFC would mean to the city of Los Angeles and it is incredible to see that dream being realized,” Larry Berg, the team’s lead managing owner, said in a statement. “The tremendous success that the club has achieved is a result of the strength and quality of the team Tom assembled.”

Penn took over as president when the expansion club was little more than an idea, but in its second season LAFC put together the best regular-season record in league history, winning the Supporter’s Shield and tying the league single-season scoring record.

Penn was named the L.A. Sports Council Executive of the Year in 2018, LAFC’s inaugural season. Under his leadership the team was also chosen one of the world’s most innovative companies by the business magazine Fast Company while Front Office Sports placed LAFC on its best employer in sports list.

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Before coming to LAFC, Penn was an NBA analyst for ESPN, an executive in the front offices of the Portland Trail Blazers and Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies and co-founder of the Sports Leadership Institute. He also worked as a player agent and was a criminal defense attorney, trying felony cases involving murder and armed robbery.