Row looms as Ritblat's son seeks British Land job

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Nick Ritblat has emerged as a strong contender to succeed his father John as the chief executive of British Land.

Such a move, which could leave the father-and-son team at the helm of the property group if John Ritblat decided to remain as chairman, would likely raise eyebrows among some shareholders and ignite fears of a BSkyB-type row over corporate governance. Mr Ritblat Snr is currently the chairman and chief executive but has agreed to split the roles.

British Land sources yesterday conceded that Mr Ritblat Jnr was an "extremely strong candidate" for the top position but insisted the selection process was completely independent.

British Land's nomination committee is led by its senior independent director, Chris Gibson-Smith, who is chairman of the London Stock Exchange. Derek Higgs, British Land's deputy chairman and the man behind recent plans to improve corporate governance, is also on that committee. "It would be stupid if this wasn't done properly. You've got the chairman of the LSE and somebody [Mr Higgs] whose name is associated with doing these things sensibly and thoroughly," said one source.

The company announced in March that Mr Ritblat Snr's role would be split before its annual meeting next summer. The headhunter Whitehead Mann has been conducting the search for a chief executive.

Speculation has been mounting recently that the shortlist has narrowed to just two names.