Motorola today announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Zafirovski has decided to resign from the company effective Jan. 31.

Zafirovski, named president and COO in 2002, was considered by many to be a prime candidate to become Motorola’s CEO after Chris Galvin resigned that post in September 2003. Instead, Motorola went outside the company and named former Sun Microsystems executive Ed Zander as CEO.

In a prepared statement, Zafirovski described his Motorola tenure as “very rewarding” but said “this is the right time for me to start considering other opportunities.”

Zafirovski, 51, said he discussed his decision with Zander, who applauded Zafirovski’s work at the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company.

"Mike's intense focus on improving the company's operations and product quality has helped us execute on our commitments, enabling Motorola to achieve increased customer satisfaction and strong financial performance,” Zander said in a prepared statement. “I know Mike will be very successful in whatever he chooses to do next."

With Zafirovski’s resignation, the presidents of Motorola’s four business groups will report directly to Zander, according to the company.