Land Securities, Britain's biggest quoted property group, yesterday surprised the City with news of the resignation of two directors, Manish Chande and Peter Walicknowski.
Both men, who many thought were being groomed to succeed Ian Henderson, the chief executive, cited personal reasons for their decision to leave.
Mr Chande, who was chief executive of Land Securities Trillium, a property services outsourcing group, joined the company in November 2000 when it acquired Trillium. He was credited as the driving force behind two big contract wins for Trillium with BT and the BBC.
Analysts said the resignations would be a blow to the company but it solved the question of which man might leave should the other be appointed to replace Mr Henderson, who is due to retire in the summer of 2003. The news initially knocked the company's share price but it later recovered to close 3.5p down at 765p.
One analyst, who did not wish to be named, said: "The news came as a surprise because if people were looking at a race they were the frontrunners."
However, Mr Henderson played down any uncertainties posed by the resignations. "Both men arrived at their decisions separately," he stressed. "It is a bit disappointing but it is something we can take in our stride. No one or two individuals are bigger than the company."
Mr Chande will stay with Trillium, which Land owns jointly with Pears Group, a private company, as chief executive until the group's next annual general meeting in 2002. After that date, he will continue to act for Land as a consultant for a further 12 months.
Mr Walicknowski, who was director of strategy and business development, left yesterday. Mr Henderson said: "Peter was at a stage where he was going to move on."