Lawrence M. Coss, the controversial chairman of Green Tree Financial Corp., will retire at the end of the year, according to parent company Conseco Inc.

Mr. Coss, who co-founded Green Tree 23 years ago, gained fame as the country's highest-paid executive in 1996, earning about $103 million in salary and stock options. He was forced to return about $25 million in cash and stock to Green Tree after the manufactured-housing lender readjusted its prepayment assumptions and restated its earnings for that year.

Insurer Conseco, which bought Green Tree this year, will give Mr. Coss $30 million upon his departure. Bruce Crittenden, now executive vice president of Green Tree, will become chief executive in 1999. Mr. Coss will remain a director.

Conseco Inc. bid for Green Tree after the manufactured housing lender's stock fell on news of the restated earnings. Conseco's stock dropped 20% when the deal was announced. It was up $2.25, to $37.1875 Monday.

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