David Abraham, chief executive of British broadcaster Channel 4, is to step down by the end of this year. The move may reignite rumors that the advertising-funded state-owned network is likely to be sold off by the government.

Abraham, who has led the network for the past seven years, will remain at the company until a new chief exec is in post. After leaving, Abraham will “develop personal plans to launch a media enterprise [next year],” according to a statement.

Charles Gurassa, Channel 4’s chair, said: “David Abraham has been an outstanding chief executive of Channel 4 over the last seven years. Under his leadership, [it] has delivered record revenues, record program investment, award-winning creative renewal and industry-leading digital innovation. He leaves the organization in excellent creative and financial health, and with a strong and highly experienced team in place.”

Abraham said he had three priorities when he joined the broadcaster, which has annual revenues of around £1 billion ($1.22 billion), and content spend totaling £700 million ($851 million). These were, he said, to “build an independently sustainable business, while still delivering strongly to our public remit; to assemble a team capable of delivering creative renewal…; and to become world leaders in digital and data innovation.”

Abraham added he was looking forward to beginning “the next phase of my life — back in the private sector where I hope to build an organization that makes use of all that I learned from leading different kinds of innovative creative businesses.”

From 2007-2010, Abraham had served as chief executive at UKTV, where he masterminded the launch of Dave, which laid the foundation for rebranding the entire UKTV network. Between 2005-2007, he had worked at Discovery Networks USA, where he led the revival of cable channel TLC as its president and general manager, overseeing all content investment and strategy. Before heading to the U.S., he led Discovery Networks UK as general manager during a four-year period of rapid growth from 2001.

Although Channel 4 and the BBC are both owned by the British government, the former sets out to stand apart from the latter by focusing on “innovation, inspiring change, diversity, nurturing talent and being a platform for alternative views,” according to a statement. Past shows have included “Gogglebox,” “Humans,” “Black Mirror” and “Catastrophe,” and its movie division, Film4, has helped fund pics like “12 Years a Slave,” “Ex Machina” and “Room.”

Abraham has been a vocal opponent of a long-mooted threat by some politicians in the ruling Conservative Party to privatize the network.

In the statement, he said Channel 4 was “a world-class public-service broadcaster that offers viewers and producers the opportunity for so much richness, delight and value, across so many genres — and long may that continue.”

He added: “Channel 4 matters and I am confident that our stakeholders recognize the unique and significant contribution it will make to the future of U.K. broadcasting and to the creative industries more broadly.”