Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the search for a new general manager would begin immediately. Randy Bush, 52, who has been the assistant GM for five seasons, took over on an interim basis, but will not be considered for the job. Ricketts said he wanted to hire someone from outside of the Cubs' organization.
"We didn't win enough games," Hendry said at a news conference at Wrigley Field before the Cubs faced the Cardinals. "You don't win enough games, you can't fight change."
Named vice president and GM in July 2002, Hendry's teams went 749-748 during his time as GM. This season, though, the team is 16 games below .500 (54-70) and in fourth place, 18 1/2 games out in the National League Central.
"First and foremost, we just didn't win enough games," Ricketts said. "Team performance over the last two years is not where it needs to be. In a culture of accountability, we need to look at those results.
"Secondarily, our goal is to win the World Series, and to do that, we have to get better," Ricketts said. "I just believe that by bringing in new leadership for the baseball organization, we'll get some different perspectives and maybe some different ideas of where to go in the future."
In what might have been the best-kept secret in Cubs history, Ricketts told Hendry on July 22 that he intended to make a change. But Ricketts wanted Hendry to continue through the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and the signing of the team's 2011 Draft choices. The deadline for signing draftees passed Monday night.
"At the moment I decided that we had to make a change, I thought the right thing to do, given how much I respect Jim, is to let him know," Ricketts said of his conversation last month with Hendry.
"He never missed a beat, and it's a credit to his character that he was able to operate under that kind of awkward situation and do as well as we have done," Ricketts said.
Hendry, 56, had one year remaining on his contract. He departs as the third-longest-tenured GM in the NL. He is the only GM in franchise history to oversee three postseason clubs (2003, '07, '08) and was the first Cubs GM to lead the franchise to consecutive postseason berths.
Hendry was the third-longest-tenured GM in franchise history behind John Holland (1957-75) and James Gallagher (1940-49).
"Nothing that's happened today should diminish Jim's great legacy as general manager of the Chicago Cubs," Ricketts said. "Three division titles during his tenure, a winning record from what I see on the press release, and we would like to thank him for his great service. We'll all miss seeing him every day at the office, for sure."
Hendry joined the organization in November 1994 as the club's director of player development. After one year in that role, he added the title of scouting director and served in the dual role through the '98 season, when he was promoted to assistant GM.
Ricketts said team officials will not comment on reports and rumors during the hiring process. There is no timeline, Ricketts said.
The next GM needs to share a commitment to player development, have a stronger analytical background and be someone who has been in a winning culture, Ricketts said. He hopes the next person "can bring some of the lessons of that [winning culture] over and has a track record of success."
Why make the decision now? Ricketts said he wanted enough time to find the right person before the offseason.
"Anything we can do to start the process is going to help us, because we do know the quicker the resolution on a new general manager, the better off we will be," Ricketts said. "That said, I'm not going to rush it. This will have an impact on the organization for a long time."
Hendry, who choked up during his goodbye session with the media, met with manager Mike Quade and the players before Friday's game. The news caught them all off guard.
"It's a sad day," pitcher Kerry Wood said.
"Everybody lost a good friend today," Quade said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.