Gillon McLachlan will take over as AFL chief executive, with Andrew Demetriou to leave the post earlier than expected.
AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick on Wednesday announced McLachlan's appointment following a near two-month search for Demetriou's replacement.
Demetriou resigned on March 3 and was set to end his 11-year stint as chief at the end of the season but will now depart on June 5.
McLachlan, Demetriou's long-time deputy, is believed to have beaten AFL club bosses Brian Cook and Brendon Gale for the job from an initial list of about 100 applicants.
He has long been regarded as the most likely successor since knocking back the NRL's chief executive role in 2012 before Dave Smith was appointed to that job.
"He is indeed the best man for the job," Fitzpatrick told reporters.
"This appointment is fitting reward for the hard work, commitment and leadership we've seen from him in his time at the AFL.
"It's particularly pleasing to be able to appoint a candidate developed from our own game."
McLachlan said he was incredibly proud to take up the new role and he would take a different approach to that of Demetriou, who he praised as a leader, mentor and friend.
"I've got a strong knowledge of the clubs and the pressures they're under," McLachlan said.
"But I also feel I was a strong candidate because I understand the passion of football.
"I've been part of the community of football and I know how important it is.
"I played over 200 games of amateur or country football, I've captained a club, I've been on a committee of a club, I'm a life member of a club.
"I've had my share of cold showers and freezing committee meetings. I've been part of appointing coaches and sacking coaches.
"I have a clear vision of where the game needs to go and how we're going to get there.
"For me that vision is about having an unassailable hold on the Australian community."
McLachlan admitted he faced some immediate challenges, including improving structures at the game's weaker clubs and emphasising engagement with the fans.
"Ultimately I will be a different leader to Andrew - there's only one Andrew," he said.
"It will mean that I take a different approach.
"It'll mean we'll have a different approach to the way we do business in here, the shape and structure of the team will change.
"But I think it's essentially consolidating and extending the work that came under Andrew's tenure."
South Australian-born McLachlan joined the AFL with Demetriou in 2000, rising to the executive three years later and has been groomed as Demetriou's successor for three years.
Unlike Demetriou, McLachlan did not play the game at the highest level but joined the league as an amateur footballer with University Blues.
He filled in as CEO for two months in 2012 when Demetriou went on long service leave, and has also served as chief operating officer and acting head of football operations.
He has played key roles in the major AFL projects of recent years including the addition of the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants to the competition, and setting up the AFL media department and the re-negotiated broadcast deals.
He also oversaw the investigation into Melbourne's tanking allegations and headed last year's negotiations with Essendon over its controversial supplements program.
It's believed he has the support of the majority of AFL clubs, including Collingwood president Eddie McGuire and his North Melbourne counterpart James Brayshaw.
McLachlan, also president of the Victorian Polo Club, was educated at Adelaide's prestigious St Peter's College.
He went on to study commerce in the city of churches before adding a law degree at Melbourne University.
He later worked as a management consultant for multinational company Accenture.