Nick Rust is to take over as the chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) when Paul Bittar steps down next year.

Mr Rust, 47, will join from Ladbrokes, where he is currently managing director, in retail.

The quality of candidates was among the highest I have ever seen for any chief executive position, with a range of senior leaders from the UK business, consumer and leisure industries. Nick impressed us all the way through the process,” said BHA chairman Steve Harman.

“He has been an avid racing fan since childhood, has an impressive track record in his business life, and a great understanding of the opportunities for the sport. Those that know Nick know that he has a natural and collaborative leadership style with staff and stakeholders alike, a good blend of humility and desire to get things done.

“He understands the priorities and opportunities well and I know that he will build on the platform developed by Paul Bittar and the BHA team, and be a highly effective and popular leader.”

Mr Rust has a “lifelong passion” for racing has been an owner since 2005, and currently has four horses in training with Micky Hammond in Middleham.

“Racing is a huge sport, and critical to many areas of the economy,” said Mr Rust. “It has many exciting opportunities ahead and I know that the racing industry can grasp these. I look forward to working with the new board, and the wider team, as well as our many stakeholders, to build on what has already been achieved across racing and by Paul and his team.”

In his current role Mr Rust oversees around 2,500 betting shops and 13,000 staff. He rejoined Ladbrokes in 2011, having started at the firm as a cashier in 1987, and held roles at BskyB and Gala Coral in between.

Ian Barlow, of the Racecourse Association (RCA), which is part of the BHA nominations committee that made the recommendation, said: “We at the RCA look forward to working with him to build on racing’s firm base. He brings with him impressive experience and knowledge of our sport.”

Rachel Hood of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) added: “Nick is a longtime racehorse owner, with a track record of investment and involvement in a racing stable, and a passion for horseracing itself. His hugely successful career in the betting industry brings with it a profound understanding of so many issues facing the future growth of our sport. The Horsemen’s Group expects its members to be well-served by Nick’s appointment, which we welcome along with our colleagues at the RCA and the chairman of the BHA.”

Current chief executive Paul Bittar announced in August that he was to leave the role in 2015, after four years. Mr Bittar, who has a background at Racing Victoria and New Zealand Throughbred Racing, is credited with having made an improvement in the sport’s “financial position, the re-establishment of the BHA’s leadership role within British racing in both regulatory and strategic matters and the development of closer working relationships between stakeholders across the sport.”