The chief executive of Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre has announced he is to step down for "family reasons".

 Andrew Morris, who took up his position at the NEC in October 2004, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three children, who live in London.

 The "born and bred Londoner" paid tribute to Birmingham City Council and the NEC's other partners, who he said had helped transform the complex during the last 18 months.

 Mr Morris said the NEC had previously been a "dinosaur" but had now gained national and international recognition.

 The former chief executive of London's Olympia and Earls Court said he intended to stay on until a successor was found, which could take months.

 The 53-year-old also plans to spearhead the NEC's bid for a regional casino after he relinquishes the chief executive role.

 A statement released by the NEC board said Mr Morris's resignation had been accepted "with regret".

 Mr Morris said he had been "selfish" to put work before his family. He spends weekdays at a flat in Birmingham and returns home at weekends.

 He said: "Some people can work away from home. For them it works. But for me it has been a great strain. I am a family man and I love my wife very deeply and I want to come back to my family every night."

 He said the complex had witnessed a transformation during recent months which would ensure it continued to flourish in the future. The only low point had been losing the Motor Show, he said.

 "I have really enjoyed seeing the transition of the business from a dinosaur into something more dynamic and exciting," he said.

 "It is that change of direction over the last few months that has seen the NEC win a lot of new business. Its reputation is at an all-time high."

 "We are punching our weight but there is a lot more to come. We are just getting started. We are 30 years old but we have just got into top gear."

 Mr Morris described working in Birmingham as "an absolute delight" and praised the "realism" of the people of the West Midlands.

 "In London you do not get that kind of honesty in the work ethnic that we have in the West Midlands," he added.

 He said he intended to continue his campaign for the NEC to house a super casino.

 Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage aim to build a gaming centre at the complex which would produce #350 million of income for the city council over ten years.

 Mr Morris said: "It was personal mission of mine and it will continue to be a personal mission.

 "I have made a commitment to do that and I am passionate about winning because I believe the NEC has a good case."

 Mr Morris was appointed chief executive after his predecessor Barry Cleverdon retired.

 A statement released by the NEC said: "It is with regret that the Board of NEC Group has accepted the resignation of Andrew Morris for family reasons.

 "The Board greatly appreciates the work that Andrew has done for the NEC Group over the last 18 months. He has built a strong team that has reinvigorated the business and put NEC Group on the path to growth.

 "The Board will very soon put in place arrangements to appoint a successor to Andrew. Andrew will continue as chief executive while this process is carried out."

 Gary Allen, acting chairman of the NEC Group in 2005, has been asked to continue in this role for the next few months to oversee the appointment.