Richards will take over the role from interim Chair and BFI Governor Pat Butler. The public appointment was made by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
Richards will take up the position from Tuesday 16 February and will serve a term of up to three years.
Since Richards founded Vue International in 1999, the cinema operator has expanded to 225 multiplex cinemas across Europe and Taiwan. He joined the BFI as a Governor in 2013 and has held positions on many industry boards since 2007.
Former Warner Bros exec Josh Berger stepped down from the BFI Chair role last year after serving a maximum ten-year term as governor and Chair.
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Dowden, Culture Secretary, said: “The BFI showcases the great creativity and innovation of the UK’s hugely successful screen sectors, which are already bouncing back strongly. I know Tim will be a brilliant champion for the industry and his extensive experience will help ensure the BFI plays an important role in our cultural and economic recovery. ”
Richards, BFI Chair Designate, added: “I am honoured and thrilled to have been asked to chair the BFI, especially at such a crucial time for the arts and cultural sector. British film and television have always had a unique power to inspire people globally and I am confident that Britain’s talent and creativity will help lead the screen industries to a great future.”
Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, said: “It’s great news that Tim Richards will be the BFI’s new Chair. Having been on the BFI Board for 7 years, Tim is already under the skin of our organisation, and has been an incredible supporter and champion of the work we do across film culture. His experience and knowledge of the business of film, particularly across exhibition but also across skills and education, will be enormously valuable to the BFI and I am very much looking forward to working closely with him as he steers us into our next exciting chapter.”