Donovan will leave his post in January following an overhaul of several senior executive roles, which the mobile operator says is unrelated to his departure. His job will be split in two - head of central Europe/Africa and head of Asia Pacific.
Donovan joined Vodafone in 1999 as managing director - commercial, and became chief executive of Vodafone Ireland in 2001. A further promotion followed four years later when he became chief executive, other Vodafone subsidiaries. A former senior executive at BT and One2one, Donovan took up his present role in May 2006.
An Arsenal fan, he is being touted as a potential successor to Keith Edelman at the North London club. Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady is also in the frame.
Separately, Michel Combes takes on the role of chief executive of Vodafone Europe. Combes, a former finance director at France Telecom, moves to the role from TDF Group, where he has been chairman and chief executive.