After nearly 25 years as Toronto International Film Festival Director/CEO, Piers Handling announced this morning that 2018’s festival will be his last. He has guided the festival, which begins next week, from a small gathering to a preeminent 10-day event that is a vital awards season launch pad and acquisitions market for indie films.

The festival continues to evolve, including the establishment of the TIFF Bell Lightbox headquarters that has moved the deal making action from across town to one centralized location. Handling has raised the bar of entry of Gala Premiere films in the coveted opening weekend slots by pushing out pictures that play at rival festivals Telluride and Venice, and this year trimmed by 20% the amount of films in its lineup. Despite that, Handling and longtime festival programmer Cameron Bailey seems to have packed in most of the films that figure to factor into the Oscar race. Festival organizers said they will search for and name a replacement over the coming months.

“Because of Piers’ leadership, TIFF is the leading cultural organization it is today, with a global reach and impact,” said Jennifer Tory, Chair of the Board of Directors of TIFF. “We are all indebted to him for his years of vision, innovation and dedication to the art of film.”

Said Handling: “I joined the festival in 1982 and have been CEO for the past 23 years. I am incredibly proud of the legacy we have achieved during that time. I am completely confident in the future of TIFF. It is now one of the most important film organizations in the world,” said Handling. “We have an exciting and bold new strategic plan — Audience First. While I am excited about what the future holds in store for me, my immediate focus remains leading this wonderful organization through to the end of 2018, and ensuring that TIFF continues to inspire audiences and celebrate the riches of cinema from all over the globe.”

Handling has received such accolades over the years as Officer of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, and France’s highest cultural insignia “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres,”,