Former Almeida executive Nick Starr will return to the South Bank this spring, when he will become Executive Director of the National Theatre. Starr, previously a long-time employee at the National, succeeds Genista McIntosh in the key administrative position that operates in close conjunction with the NT's artistic director. Starr will help smooth the handover of that post too - which from April 2003, will be held by Nicholas Hytner, taking over from current artistic director Trevor Nunn.

An Oxford graduate, Starr began his theatre career as a volunteer at the Half Moon Theatre in London's East End. After jobs in publicity with Cambridge Theatre Company, the Half Moon and in the West End, he joined the National Theatre press office in 1987, and later became the NT's assistant producer in 1991 and then its head of planning.

In 1996, Starr became director of Warwick Arts Centre, and the following year joined the Almeida as executive director, working alongside now-outgoing joint artistic directors Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid to broaden the company's scope with touring, seasons in the West End, the Malvern Festival and the conversion of Gainsborough Studios for the renowned "Shakespeare in Shoreditch" double bill starring Ralph Fiennes. Starr left the Almeida in February 2001 after securing the company its temporary home at King Cross, where it's residing while its Islington home base is refurbished.

In 2000, Starr, with Vida Ulemek, also founded his own production company, Us Productions, whose projects have included Jerry Springer The Opera, The Crucible on Broadway and The Syringa Tree, which comes to the National's Cottesloe Theatre next month. Starr serves on the board of the Young Vic and the Battersea Arts Centre.

Commenting on Starr's appointment, Sir Christopher Hogg, chairman of the NT Board, said: "Nick Starr's strengths and experience speak for themselves and will be a great asset to the National Theatre. He was selected from a strong field of candidates after an appointments process in which both the Board and the Arts Council were involved."

Starr said he was "thrilled" with the appointment and particularly with the opportunity to work with both Nunn and Hytner. "In Trevor Nunn, I get to work with one of the world's greatest directors," he said. "With Nick Hytner, I am yoked with the best possible choice as Trevor's successor and I am taking over from someone I admire boundlessly." He added: "The National is a unique institution - there is a genius to the place."

McIntosh originally worked as executive director at the National for six years from 1990 to 1996. She left to take up the chief executive position at the Royal Opera House, then deeply troubled and facing a House of Commons investigation and financial meltdown from overspending ahead of a year's closure and £214 million renovation. McIntosh added to the ROH crisis headlines in the news when she quit her position there after only four months. In 1997, she returned to her position at the National.

- by Terri Paddock