Collingwood's hierarchy didn't know Eddie McGuire would step down from the AFL club's presidency until his decision was made public on Monday night.
Despite being re-elected for a further three-year term in February, a tearful McGuire announced during Monday's fan forum that he would step down at the end of next season.
"He'd told (his wife) Carla and the two boys and that was it," Collingwood chief executive Mark Anderson told SEN Breakfast.
"I was listening to it, like our members, with surprise and shock and just processing - was I hearing what I was hearing?"
"But ... you could hear the passion and the emotion in Eddie's voice and when you heard that, you knew what you were hearing was accurate."
Anderson said he and a "few others" caught up with McGuire to discuss the decision.
He emphasised McGuire's "passion" for the club was as strong as ever, but the timing of his exit was a personal decision.
"The passion's there, the drive's there, the energy's there - we all see that in Eddie," he said.
"It was very much a personal decision - he felt the time was right, both of his boys are now finishing school ... (it's) just that time of life (and) he's finished up his morning radio as well.
"For (his wife) Carla and the boys and as a family, it's just a different phase of life for him and a personal decision."
Anderson lauded McGuire's "immense" contribution to Collingwood over more than two decades.
"He's rebuilt our club and there's an amazing amount of success that he's had across the time on-field with the 2010 premiership - (also the) building and the relocation of Collingwood to the Holden Centre and to the MCG as our home ground," he said.
"So he's got many successes behind him and he's committed to this last year, establishing a few more before he steps out."
Australian Associated Press