The chief executive of the UK's biggest property company, Land Securities, stepped down yesterday denying a rift with chairwoman Alison Carnwath.
Francis Salway, who has led LandSec since 2004, was reportedly given a six-month deadline by Ms Carnwath to turn the business around in May 2009 after posting losses of £4.8bn.
The credit crunch and recession also forced LandSec to abandon plans to split into three, stretching shareholder patience.
Mr Salway said that Ms Carnwath, pictured, had been "surprised" when he originally told her of his intention to quit at the end of 2010. "It has been a very harmonious relationship and we have achieved a lot. That doesn't happen with fractious relationships," he said.
Rob Noel, the head of LandSec's vast London business, who oversaw its groundbreaking One New Change shopping centre at Cheapside, will take the reins, on a £680,000 salary, when Mr Salway leaves at the end of March.
At 54, Mr Salway has at least one more top job in him. "Eight years in the role of chief executive is quite a long time," he said. "When I joined LandSec I never intended to stay for the balance of my career. I don't have a new position to go to, but you will not see me as the chief executive of a listed property company."
Mr Salway, who earned £1.3m in salary and bonuses last year, will not get a pay-off but will retain share options under long-term incentive plans.
LandSec's major developments have continued to attract tenants – with property giant CBRE recently signing up for office space at One New Change – although deals have been taking longer to get done. The only recent blemish has been in the group's retail portfolio, where the recent spate of strugglers – Peacocks, La Senza, Barratts and the Officer's Club – pushed the share of its units in administration to 2 per cent.
Its shares eased by 9.5p to 682p.