The Premier League says its prospective new chief executive, Susanna Dinnage, has told the organisation she will not be taking up the position.
She was named as Richard Scudamore's replacement in November and was due to take up the role early in 2019.
"The committee has reconvened its search and is talking to candidates," said a Premier League statement.
Dinnage will stay at media organisation Discovery, where she was the global president of the Animal Planet channel.
She had reflected on the role in recent weeks and informed the Premier League that she had decided that she wanted to stay in broadcasting.
She apparently had not given a precise start date as she had a long notice period to serve.
The Premier League is comfortable with acting chief executive Richard Masters and interim chair Claudia Arney continuing for longer as they resume their search.
Prior to joining Discovery in January 2009, Dinnage worked for 10 years at Channel Five and she started her career at MTV.
This is a surprise snub to the Premier League - and especially embarrassing for Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who led the search for former supremo Richard Scudamore's replacement.
It comes at a critical time for English football's top clubs and, while Dinnage is yet to explain her decision, it may well be the daunting scale of the task facing her played a role in her U-turn. Perhaps the scrutiny over Scudamore's controversial £5m pay-off also made her reconsider.
Sports TV audience habits are clearly shifting and, with a decrease in the value of the latest domestic TV rights deal and new digital challengers emerging in the market, her experience of tough negotiations at Discovery would have been useful.
With Brexit looming, whoever is drafted in now will have to manage strained relations with the FA over homegrown player quotas, and contend with the biggest clubs jostling for more of a share of overseas TV revenue.