Niels de Vos, the chief executive of Sale Sharks rugby union club, will take over the role of chief executive of UK Athletics in May.
Warner will step in until De Vos (right) takes his post in May
The 39-year-old, who has a business rather than an athletics background, will replace David Moorcroft, who leaves this week after nine years.
Ed Warner, who became chairman three weeks ago, will step in as acting chief executive until De Vos' arrival.
"I believe Niels brings energy and drive to the role," said Warner.
De Vos has enjoyed great success at reigning Premiership champions Sale and helped mastermind the club's move from Heywood Road to the larger Edgeley Park in 2003.
He will leave his post with Sale in May but will stay with the club as a director.
My task will be to create a climate for success across the entire sport
De Vos was also the commercial director of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and made a name for himself by negotiating some lucrative sponsorship deals.
Warner added: "He has valuable experience managing organisations within elite sport. He knows what it takes to operate in a successful environment and to inspire others.
"I am looking forward to working closely with Niels to take UK Athletics and our sport to new heights. I am sure Niels will provide great vision and leadership for UK Athletics."
Moorcroft confirmed his retirement last September and will leave UK Athletics on 2 February.
The former world 5,000m record holder felt that with London staging the Olympics in 2012, the right move would be to leave and allow a successor to get established well ahead of the showpiece.
De Vos, who will take up his post in May, said: "I am thrilled and honoured to have been entrusted with the role of chief executive of UK Athletics.
"Athletics was my sport as a youngster and has long been a passion of mine. When the opportunity arose to apply my business and sports administration skills within UK Athletics, I did not hesitate.
"My task will be to create a climate for success across the entire sport and to ensure that everyone in athletics is empowered and supported to fulfil their ambitions and to secure a vibrant future for the sport.
Clear leadership is needed at the top of the organisation to ensure that the right support structures are put in place for our athletes
"At the elite end of the sport, the focus will be on getting our top athletes to the start line in optimum condition to maximise their chances of medal success.
"That means providing them with the best possible environment in which to prepare for major championships, with the best possible support.
"In sport as in business the smallest of margins separates success and failure. Our focus needs to be on the detail that can make a difference both at the performance level and across our organisation."
Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and a member of the recruitment panel for De Vos' appointment, said: "This is a crucial time for UK Athletics in the run-up to London 2012.
"Clear leadership is needed at the top of the organisation to ensure that the right support structures are put in place for our athletes.
"Niels has an impressive background in the business of sport and I look forward to hearing his ideas and working with him and Ed Warner in the coming years."