By Mitch Phillips
LONDON Dec 14 Ian Ritchie will become the new CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after being lured away from a similar role at Wimbledon's All England Tennis Club, the organisations said on Wednesday.
Ritchie, who spent six years in charge of Wimbledon, takes over from acting CEO Stephen Brown who will revert to his role as chief financial officer once Ritchie has served a yet-to-be-determined period of notice.
Brown stepped in last month following the resignation of Martyn Thomas, who was also formerly chairman of the RFU, after a period of often chaotic internal power struggles and reviews.
"Ian Ritchie was chosen as having an outstanding mix of business experience, leadership skills and the innate understanding of the sporting world," the RFU said in a statement.
England have appointed Stuart Lancaster as caretaker coach for the Six Nations championship, which begins in February, and Ritchie's first big task will be to oversee the appointment of a permanent coach to replace Martin Johnson, who resigned last month after a disappointing World Cup campaign.
The former television executive, who has also had roles in soccer and is a director of Wembley Stadium, said he was looking forward to the challenge of leading English rugby towards the next World Cup on home soil.
"I believe English rugby has a very bright future, culminating in a once in a lifetime home World Cup in 2015," he said. "I am determined to help rugby create a legacy from the tournament that will benefit the sport for generations to come.
"The decision to leave the AELTC was a difficult one.
"I know that Wimbledon will continue to go from strength to strength with its exceptional leadership and fantastic management and staff."
Ritchie's six years in a charge of the AELTC have coincided with a boom for the Wimbledon Championships in terms of TV revenue while his innovative leadership has turned the venue into one of the most modern in the sport while still retaining the traditions of the grasscourt event.
During his time at the helm, a new Centre Court roof was completed as well as two new showcourts.
His appointment by the RFU rules him out of the running to replace Adam Helfant as chief executive of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
(additional reporting by Martyn Herman)
(Editing by Ed Osmond; to query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)