Baker has been a non-executive at the Costa Coffee and Premier Inn owner since 2009 and will take up his new role at the start of September. Habgood is retiring after nine years in the job.
The former Asda executive, who is also chairman of Virgin Active Group and DFS Furniture, is best known for his tenure at Boots the Chemist between 2003 and 2007. On his watch it merged with Alliance UniChem in 2005 and two years later Baker agreed the £11bn sale to private equity firm KKR. He is expected to reduce his other business commitments over the next six months.
Whitbread, which made underlying pre-tax profits of £411.8m on sales of £2.3bn last year, has ambitious growth plans. By 2018 its chief executive Andy Harrison plans to have increased the size of the Premier Inn chain by 45% to around 75,000 UK rooms and to have roughly doubled sales at Costa to £2bn.
Sir Ian Cheshire, Whitbread's senior independent director who oversaw the appointment, said it had conducted a "thorough search" with the help of executive search consultants. "We were lucky enough to have a very strong field of potential candidates but at the end it was clear to us that Richard was the best choice," he said. "He has a very strong record in both managing and chairing consumer businesses."
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