Wells Fargo & Co.'s consumer finance subsidiary said Friday that David C. Wood, its chairman and chief executive, will retire early next year.

The unit, Norwest Financial, will be run by executive vice president Thomas P. Shippee, who has been named acting president and chief operating officer of the unit. Mr. Wood will remain chairman while the company conducts an internal and external search for his successor.

Norwest Corp., which on Nov. 2 merged with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo to create a $205.4 billion-asset company, bought Dial Finance in 1982 and renamed it Norwest Financial. Mr. Wood joined Dial in 1970 as assistant counsel. He was named chief executive of the unit in 1994. -- Olaf de Senerpont Domis

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