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LONDON-Sir John Ritblat, chairman of British Land and one of the last great British property tycoons, has revealed his retirement at the FTSE-100 group’s annual meeting. Sir John has led the company for 36 years and only months ago delivered a record set of full-year results. He started his career at the age of 16 under the tutelage of the property agent Edward Erdman, after seeing the bomb-ravaged Bond Street and Berkeley Square in the 1950s, which inspired him to dedicate his life to real estate.

When he became chairman and managing director of British Land in 1971 it was a small firm with a euro 29.3-million ($36.7-million) market capitalization. This year, British Land has a market value of euro 10.02 billion ($12.7 billion) with euro 26.03 billion ($33 billion) of property owned or under management. Assets include the Broadgate office complex in the City of London and the Meadowhall shopping center in Sheffield. He took control of the company after reversing private Union Property Holdings into the group in 1970. Sir John was knighted this year for services to the arts including the donation of a rare book collection to the British Library.

British Land spokespeople say the entrepreneur would be succeeded as chairman in January 2007 by Chris Gibson-Smith, chairman of the London Stock Exchange and former managing director of BP. He is already a non-executive director of British Land.

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