Officials at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre last night moved to end mounting speculation regarding the reasons behind chief executive Andrew Morris standing down.

Mr Morris announced last week that he was bringing an end to his 18-month spell heading the exhibition complex for family reasons, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two children who live in London.

But rumours have since surfaced that there may have been other reasons behind Mr Morris leaving the post.

Speculation that Birmingham City Council has been looking to sell the complex has mounted since the appointment of Mr Morris, who has a #110 million fortune compiled from exhibition centres and a family shopfitting group.

He came to Birmingham after working as chief executive of the Earls Court and Olympia complex in London, which was sold to a Japanese conglomerate for #61 million.

Deborah Smith, marketing and communications director at the NEC Group, said: "It's a real shame that anyone would question Andrew's honesty and commitment to his family.

"Thanks to Andrew's leadership, the NEC Group is now a robust organisation with a bright future. The NEC is being transformed with a #40 million investment programme and the feedback from our customers is positive for everything we're doing."