Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, will leave the board of the Guardian newspaper after opting to launch his own rival news operation that will compete for staff, stories and donations.
The 50-year-old, who joined the board of Guardian Media Group as a non-executive director little over a year ago, has revealed plans to launch Wikitribune, an outlet aiming to provide “factual and neutral” news coverage.
Mr Wales has said he plans to hire up to 20 journalists to work on the operation.
Wikitribune will be funded by donations, putting it in direct competition with the Guardian, which frequently appeals to online readers for voluntary contributions in lieu of digital subscriptions.
He said: “Jimmy Wales will be stepping down from the GMG board by mutual agreement, given the potential for overlap in our work. We wish him well with the new project.”
Mr Wales has seized on concern around “fake news” online to promote Wikitribune, arguing “the news is broken and we can fix it“.
Guardian Media Group’s spokesman said: “We welcome all efforts to combat the rise of fake news. Our rapid growth in traffic and Guardian membership show that the demand for independent, trusted and high-quality journalism is greater than ever. ”
The left-leaning title is seeking to boost membership and donation revenues in light of a tough advertising market.
Online revenues have not risen quickly enough to make up for declining print sales, with the bulk of market growth taken up by Google and Facebook.
A spokesman for Guardian Media Group said Mr Wales’s plans meant he could no longer sit on the newspaper’s board.
The Guardian was on track to burn £90m in cash last year and has warned staff to expect further redundancies as it seeks to reach break-even in two years.
Mr Wales said: “I am a huge admirer of the Guardian and am honoured to have been involved as a member of the GMG board. I will continue to be an avid fan of their integrity for news and journalism.”
He has said he will take a hands-on role in his latest venture and remains chairman of The People’s Operator, a mobile service provider that gives a shares of its revenues to good causes.
It floated on AIM on a £100m valuation in 2014 but has struggled to build its subscriber base and now has a market capitalisation of less than £11m.