ONE of the UK’s largest private landowners, the Duke of Buccleuch, is stepping down as chairman of the company that manages his family’s business interests.

Buccleuch Group announced yesterday that the duke will give up the role early next month, shortly after his 65th birthday. He will be succeeded as executive chairman by Benny Higgins, a former chief executive officer of Tesco Bank, who has been a non-executive Buccleuch director for the last six years.

The duke’s elder son, the Earl of Dalkeith, will become deputy chairman. John Glen, will move from his current role as CEO of Buccleuch to focus on a strategic review of large-scale energy projects which are at a critical phase in their development. The duke said the group, which has faced criticism over its treatment of some of its tenants, had endured some difficult years following the 2008 financial crash but is now trading profitably.

He said: “The last decade had seen a transformation of the group with promising diversification into important new areas and the modernisation of our management structures and practices. I am pleased to announce the end of my chairmanship at a time when the business is in a very healthy position.

“Buccleuch, like many businesses, has to continually adapt and change. The implementation of a strategy to reduce our overall rural footprint and realise property sales, while continuing to invest in a range of projects which contribute to the rural economy, has proved successful and means the business is well-placed to face the challenges and opportunities which Brexit and the future may bring.

“Buccleuch is engaged in a diverse range of business activity. We have an accomplished and settled management structure in place and the time is also right for us to assess the potential of our significant interests in the energy sector.”

The duke will continue to be involved in heritage elements of the family holdings, including historic houses and the art collection, and will continue to chair the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust.