Linehan will begin work on a part time basis from 1 May 2013, taking up the post of festival director and chief executive full time from 1 October 2014.
He said of his appointment: "I am delighted and deeply honoured to have been appointed as the nextd irector of the Edinburgh International Festival. I look forward to safeguarding the founding principles of the festival in ways which are engaging and relevant to all."
Linehan, who currently divides his time between Europe and Australia where he works on programming at Sydney Opera House, added: "I look forward to moving to Edinburgh to serve the devoted festival-goers and artists from Scotland and around the world, who have grown to love this wonderful institution over the past seven decades."
From 2004 to 2009 he was chief executive and artistic director of the Sydney Festival, nearly doubling its turnover. He began his career in theatre in his native Dublin, producing many shows and going on to direct the city's major arts event, the Dublin Theatre Festival. During that time he commissioned work by artists including Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and Roddy Doyle.
Donald Wilson, chair of the EIF Society said: "Fergus brings new skills, intellectual rigour and a highly successful track record to the festival and the city. Having previously lived in Edinburgh and worked with companies visiting the city he is familiar with what the city can offer its residents as well as visitors and artists from around the world. I look forward to welcoming him back to Edinburgh and Scotland's creative and vibrant cultural life."
Linehan will take up the position initially for five years, covering Festivals from 2015 to 2019.