Roberts had been CEO of Protagonist Pictures.

Ben Roberts has been hired as the new Director of the BFI Film Fund. His start date in the position is not yet confirmed.

Roberts, 36, is currently CEO of sales company Protagonist Pictures, which he helped launch in 2007 (the company is a joint venture between Film4, Vertigo and Ingenious). He previously worked as VP Worldwide Acquisitions at Universal International Pictures (2003-2007) and ran UK theatrical distribution and acquisitions for Metrodome (1998-2003).

At Protagonist he has worked on hits including Submarine, Kill List, Tyrannosaur, StreetDance 3D and In The Loop. This is the second high-profile departure at Protagonist after head of sales Charlotte van Weede left in early March to join eOne.

This newly expanded role will bring together development, production, distribution and exhibition for the first time. The Fund has an annual budget of more than £21m from the National Lottery. His appointment comes after Tanya Seghatchian left the BFI in September, in her role as head of the production side of the Fund.

Daniel Battsek, formerly of National Geographic Films and Miramax, had been amongst the other candidates, as he was backed publicly for the job by Skillset chair Stewart Till.

Ben Roberts said: “This is a rare opportunity to make a difference in a really dynamic part of the film sector and I relish the chance to work across the industry, building on the successes of the last few years. This new role offers me the special opportunity to support talented British filmmakers in achieving their potential to make great and memorable films. It also means I can play my part in leading the development of a more joined-up approach to public investment in film in the UK by overseeing all of the BFI’s Lottery Film Fund investments - including distribution and exhibition - to better connect films with their audiences.”

Amanda Nevill, chief executive of the BFI added: “I’m thrilled that Ben is joining us to lead the BFI Film Fund at this important time for film in the UK  His experience reflects the future demands on this new role, combining creative flair with a very strong audience and market sensibility. This will ensure we achieve maximum impact both in making strong investments in film development and production, but also in linking up distribution and exhibition activities in new ways for the benefit of audiences. Ben Roberts’ commitment and enthusiasm for UK film is infectious and his track record in finding audiences for new British film voices is impressive. We look forward to working with him to help build further on the current success of British film at home and abroad. In making this appointment we were fortunate to have a strong field of candidates. After a long and comprehensive process it was clear that Ben was the best candidate to take the BFI Film Fund into its next stage.”

Other comments on the appointment include the following:

Matthew Justice, managing director of Big Talk, and BFI governor: “People that combine Ben’s experience, flair, tenacity, energy and charm are very rare. I’m sure that he’ll bring visionary leadership to the already strong team at the Film Fund, across all its areas of activity, and I think Ben is an inspired and bold appointment for the BFI.”

David Kosse, president, Universal Pictures International: “Ben has a real nose for new and fresh talent. His approach takes not only a cultural perspective but also strikes a commercial chord.”

Mark Herbert, CEO and producer at Warp Films: “Ben has a great understanding of the importance of backing new talent and taking risks with first time filmmakers, together with a brilliant commercial eye for the bigger, more mainstream films…..this is great news for the Lottery film fund.”

Ben Wheatley, director of Kill List and the upcoming Sightseeers: “It’s great news to hear about this appointment.  Ben Roberts combines a love of cinema, sharp business sense and cool nerves under fire while remaining a great person to be around. Exciting times ahead for the BFI.”