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Shock as Rust appointed new BHA chief executive.

12 November 2014

The racing and betting industries alike were in for a shock last week when it was announced that Nick Rust was to leave Ladbrokes to become the next chief executive of the BHA. The move was not universally welcomed with naysayers likening the appointment of a bookmaker to the top job at British racing's governing body to allowing a fox into the hen house. 

However, BHA chairman Steve Harman said Rust, the managing director of retail at Ladbrokes, had been hired for his business skills and love of horseracing, not because of his betting industry background. Harman said: "The field he was up against was one of the highest-quality chief executive fields I have ever come across - and I have come across a few in my life." He added the reaction he has had from racing's leadership about the appointment has been "almost universally positive" and that Rust has developed a good reputation across the industry. 

On the issue of Rust's career as a bookmaker, Harman said: "The way I look at Nick - and the way we all look at Nick, because a large number of people were involved in the decision - is that he loves racing first and foremost. He cares for horses, he cares for people and he loves racing. "He's a good businessman and the bookmaking aspect was not our lead reason for hiring him. He just happens to be a bookmaker, working for a very good bookmaker." 

While the BHA declined to say what Rust's annual salary would be as chief executive, it did say suggestions of £350,000 were not accurate. Ladbrokes said Rust would work until the end of his notice period in April, while Bittar is expected to leave early in the new year. An acting chief executive is likely to be put in place in the interim. 

In a BHA statement Rust said of his appointment: "Given my lifelong passion for British racing, I am thrilled and honoured to be taking up the role of chief executive at BHA." Bittar welcomed Rust to the role and said it reflected the close relationship between racing and betting. "Nick as a fan of the sport is someone who really understands betting and the punter in particular. I think he should bring some interesting thoughts to that," Bittar said. 

Ladbrokes said they will not look to find a like-for-like replacement for Rust as they wished him well in his new role at the BHA. Rust has spent 18 years in two spells at Ladbrokes and the company said they were saddened but not surprised by his departure. 

Chief executive Richard Glynn said: "We wish Nick well in what is an important role for horse racing at an important time. With his lifelong passion for racing, his knowledge of the industry and the threats posed to it from the growing popularity of other sports he has a lot to deal with and a lot to offer." Ladbrokes said that Rust would "play no further part in any discussions affecting horse racing or horse racing industry relations" before he leaves for the BHA next spring, and added: "With strong and experienced teams in place across the business there are no immediate plans to replace Nick Rust's position in a like-for-like role."

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