Property firm British Land yesterday confirmed that John Ritblat was standing down as chairman and would be replaced by Chris Gibson-Smith, who is also chairman of the London Stock Exchange.
British Land - owner of the hugely successful Blythe Valley Business Park at Solihull - said Mr Ritblat would go at the end of 2006 and that Mr Gibson-Smith had been appointed deputy chairman with immediate effect.
Long-time bid target LSE also said Mr Gibson-Smith would continue as its chairman for three days a week.
"The company is in excellent shape after another record year and with management transition to Stephen Hester now successfully complete," Mr Ritblat said in a statement at the group's annual meeting.
In a bid to mitigate the impact of a fragile retail market, British Land has increased the number of outof-town shopping centres and prime London offices in its portfolio since Mr Hester took over as chief executive in July 2004.
The group, which has over £18 billion in property assets and an annualised gross income of £700 million, has also sold properties worth around £1 billion since last March in a move to reshape its portfolio.
Mr Ritblat has been chairman since 1971 and the group said he had been elected honorary president of British Land upon his retirement. Mr Gibson Smith joined British Land in January 2003 as a non-executive director.
Meanwhile, British Land yesterday snapped up seven stores from B&Q owner Kingfisher in a deal worth £198 million.
The shops, in Ashford, Bury, Exeter, Glasgow, Grimsby, Lincoln and North Shields, represent seven per cent of Kingfisher's portfolio.