Design expert John Sorrell, the former chair of the Design Council, has been appointed the new chairman of CABE.
The move has left many observers surprised after ex-cabinet minister Chris Smith was tipped for the £42,000-a-year part-time role last month.
The appointment comes at a difficult time for the organisation, as it continues to recover from the controversy surrounding the audit of a conflict of interest in the summer and prepares to give evidence to an ODPM Select Committee next Monday.
But Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said Sorrell, 59, was more than capable of taking on the challenge of leading the troubled design watchdog into a new era. 'CABE has made a huge impression in the five short years since its creation, ' she said. 'John Sorrell will build on this. His great expertise in the field of design, together with his wide experience of public life, mean that CABE is now very well placed to move forward.' New CABE chief executive Richard Simmons agreed: 'I am delighted with John's appointment. He brings valuable business experience from leading a successful design company and has strong networks in government and industry.
'I believe John's clarity of vision will make an outstanding contribution to the quality of architecture, public spaces and urban design, ' he added.
Sorrell will take up his position on Tuesday (14 December).