Sir John Ritblat announced today that he will be stepping down as chairman of British Land at the end of the year, after 36 years at the helm

Sir John has been elected honorary president of British Land on his retirement.

He will be succeeded by Dr Chris Gibson-Smith, chairman of the London Stock Exchange, who is senior independent director. Gibson-Smith has been appointed deputy chairman with immediate effect. His position of senior independent non-executive director will be filled by Sir David Michels.

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, Sir John said: ‘I have always spoken of property as a long-term business, and indeed, I personally have been actively engaged in it for over half a century since 1952.

‘We have a come a long way. When I took over Union Property Holdings (London) – the precursor of British Land in 1969 – it had assets of just £6m and a share price of a few pennies – old pennies at that.

‘Now we have assets owned and managed in excess of £18bn and net assets per share of some £15. I am sure that the future prospects of the portfolio will continue to shine.’

Deputy chairman Sir Derek Higgs, chief operating officer John Weston Smith and former Pillar Property director Patrick Vaughan also stood down at the meeting, one year after British Land’s acquisition of Pillar.