Sir John Ritblat is £56m richer today after selling most of his shares in British Land while they were trading at a record level

The company’s chairman, who is to step down in January after 35 years at the helm, has sold 3.5m shares at an average price of 1615.7p. He will retain approximately 500,000 shares and options, valued at around £4m in value.

Ritblat is understood to have sold the shares to take advantage of a Government ruling which enables employees who own shares in a company and have worked there for at least two years, to pay only 10% tax on the capital gain.

Should the shares be sold following his departure, Ritblat could have been made to pay tax of up to 40%.

The news of the sale comes a day after Ritblat presided over his last set of British Land results as chairman. Shares were at 1622p by the close of play yesterday, valuing the company at £8.4bn.