Bill Nader will return to Hong Kong racing as the shock replacement for Tony Kelly as the Jockey Club undertakes a major restructure of the racing department.

Kelly essentially replaced Nader under a new look racing structure in 2015 but served little more than two years before his sudden resignation for “personal reasons” was announced on Monday.

After Kelly quit, talks began with Nader, who served eight years as Executive Director of Racing, and whose new role will be Director of Racing, Business Operations.

“Given the situation with Tony we thought it best to bring in someone who knows the business,” Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said at Sha Tin yesterday morning. “We looked at what options we had, and for me the natural person for the role was Bill because he is familiar with the situation. He loves Hong Kong, he loves Hong Kong racing and he has huge credibility with stakeholders. Bill never lost touch because he is passionate about Hong Kong racing. So we maintained a dialogue after he left and when Bill saw the chance to be reunited with Hong Kong racing he jumped at the opportunity. Bill is also a Hong Kong resident, so it was an easy process to bring him in on short notice.”

Engelbrecht-Bresges said Nader has agreed to a three-year contract and will report to Andrew Harding when he begins on March 12.

“This not a short-term fix, this is a long-term commitment – if you look at our plans for the future with Conghua, this is one of the most interesting projects you can be involved with in racing, and I think that opportunity is what enticed Bill to come back,” he said.

After Nader departed, his role was split between Kelly and Andrew Harding, whose role will now be broadened.

“Andrew deserves this opportunity, he has proven himself as one of the best racing administrators in the world for a long time now,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said, adding the Nader’s new role would take on more of a “racing focus.”

“Bill has embraced the idea of the role, taking care of things like handicapping and race programming. Everything on track will be Bill’s, but the overall responsibilities for the racing division will be Andrew’s.”

A big part of Kelly’s responsibilities included dual-site operations for the Conghua training centre due to open later this year and the club has also moved to help fill the leadership void left by his departure.

Richard Tsiang An-kai was already overseeing the project management for the mainland training complex but will now be based in Guangzhou as the opening date draws closer.

“Richard understands the complexity of the project, so that will be another support for Bill,” the CEO said. “We have somebody on the site that was normally in Hong Kong and that will help us.”

Jockey Club to restructure racing division after sudden resignation of executive director Tony Kelly

Engelbrecht-Bresges was not willing to elaborate on the reasons for Kelly’s departure, stating; “We take it that there are personal reasons and are willing to respect that.”

Kelly, who returned home to England last week and has not returned, told local press he had enjoyed his time at the Jockey Club.

“I’m particularly proud of the progress that’s been made on the Conghua project since I became involved in September 2015. I wish the team well for a successful opening in July,” he said.