Sir John Ritblat, the veteran property magnate who turned British Land into one of Britain’s top companies, has suffered a setback to his pub ambitions after the appointment of administrators to his fledgeling Merchant Inns chain.

Although its seven outlets, mainly pubs with hotel rooms and restaurants, are said to have been trading strongly, administrators from Deloitte stated that they had been appointed after “the discovery of a number of previously unknown financial liabilities”.

The business, set up by Sir John two years ago as a joint venture with Robert Breare, the leisure entrepreneur, has been put up for sale through Colliers Robert Barry, with analysts predicting that it could fetch up to £25m. The agency is part of Colliers CRE, the quoted property consultancy chaired by Sir John.

The Times