Stuart Lipton, Stanhope's chief executive, believes he had pre-emption rights over the shares, which were owned by Canary Wharf developer Olympia & York until the Canadian group went into receivership.
He is concerned that uncertainty over the future of such a substantial shareholding in the company is jeopardising talks with other property companies over a proposed financial restructuring of the heavily indebted property developer.
British Land, which makes no secret of the fact that it bought the stake as a first step in its ultimate aim of securing Stanhope's biggest asset, a half-share in the Broadgate office complex in the City of London, would say only that it took legal advice on the purchase.
The future of Stanhope has been in doubt since the collapse into receivership of its development partner Rosehaugh in December 1992. Last November, the company announced a fall in net assets from pounds 42m to a negative net worth of pounds 15.8m in the year to June 1993.
Lord Sharp, the chairman, said that in the absence of the British Land uncertainty, a refinancing would be likely within three months.Reuse content