John Richards is to retire as chief executive of Hammerson and will be replaced by the property company's UK managing director David Atkins.

Atkins, 43, will become chief executive from 1 October 2009. He has been with the company for 11 years, and was appointed to the board in 2007.

Richards, who has been with the company for nearly 30 years and chief executive for 10, will retire on 30 September.

John Nelson, chairman of Hammerson, said: 'John has been an outstanding leader of the company for many years. I want, on behalf of the board, to record a huge debt of gratitude to him. He has been instrumental in the development of Hammerson into the company it is today. In David we are fortunate to have one of the strongest senior property executives in the industry, with a proven track record. He has the right qualities to lead the company.'

Richards said: 'I have thoroughly enjoyed my 30 years with Hammerson and it has been a real privilege to have been chief executive for the last 10 years. I have been discussing the future leadership of the company with the board for some time and I am delighted that David has been selected to succeed me. We have worked together for 11 years and I am confident he will continue to drive the business forward.'