Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive John Allen is resigning to take up the role of head of the NZ Racing Board.

Mr Allen began as the Mfat head in in July 2009 and headed a controversial restructuring of the government department which was opposed by many staff and saw 49 ambassadors and heads of foreign missions co-sign a letter criticising the plan.

Prior to his role at Mfat, Allen was chief executive of New Zealand Post and previously a partner of law firm Rudd Watts and Stone.

Mr Allen's departure was flagged by political newsletter Trans-Tasman, which said he planned to announce next Monday that he is leaving for a top post in the private sector.

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This afternoon, the NZ Racing Board confirmed it had appointed Mr Allen as its new CEO.

NZ Racing Board Chair Glenda Hughes says this is an outstanding appointment for the organisation and indeed the wider racing and sports industries.

"We are delighted to be able to appoint someone of John's calibre and experience to this position. Our industry is facing a number of challenges however the opportunities are also vast.

Mr Allen said he was excited about the opportunity to join the NZ Racing Board.

"It's going to be fun. The NZ Racing Board is a $2 billion business that plays a vital role in the New Zealand economy by supporting the racing and sports industries. It is also the owner and operator of the TAB which is an exciting commercial enterprise and iconic New Zealand brand," says Allen.

Allen will join the NZ Racing Board in March next year.

- Herald Online / BusinessDesk