ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Lawrence Coss, the founder of Green Tree Financial Corp. and one of the highest paid U.S. chief executives this decade, is retiring at the end of the year, Green Tree's parent company announced Monday.

Conseco Inc., an insurer based in Carmel, Ind., acquired Green Tree in April. At the time, the agreement said Coss would gain a ``termination payment'' worth about $30 million, or 0.5 percent of the sale price, if he left within two years.

Coss has been one of the highest paid U.S. chief executives in the 1990s, taking in $216 million between 1992 and 1996.

Coss, 59, will remain a director of St. Paul-based Green Tree, which diversified into a nationwide consumer and business lender from its roots in financing mobile homes.

``Larry Coss is a legendary figure in the financial services industry,'' said Conseco's chairman, Stephen C. Hilbert. ``Starting with uncommon vision and $25,000 in capital in 1975, he built one of the true franchises in the consumer finance business.''

Bruce Crittenden, previously executive vice president of Green Tree, was named president.

Conseco has more than 9 million policyholders and is a provider of health and life insurance and retirement annuities.