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WellChoice Chairman Retiring

Phil Briggs had stayed on to oversee merger talks that broke up last month.
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said Thursday that Chairman Phil Briggs would retire, just a month after the health insurer abandoned talks aimed at acquiring rival

Oxford Health Plans



The New York company said Briggs, 76, won't stand for re-election at the annual shareholder meeting next week. He won't be replaced on the board, which will have 13 directors, 10 of which the company characterizes as independent. WellChoice is the parent company of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

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WellChoice said Briggs stayed on past the company's retirement age to facilitate merger talks with New York-based Oxford. But the companies' discussions

unraveled late last month. Four days later, big health maintenance outfit


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rode to Oxford's rescue in a deal valued at nearly $5 billion.

"Phil has fulfilled the classic role of chairman, taking on the role of CEO twice along the way during periods of transition," said Michael A. Stocker, MD, President and CEO of WellChoice. "Under Phil's leadership over the past 11 years, the company recovered from the attack on our headquarters at the World Trade Center, converted to a for-profit company, and has vastly improved its position in the New York market. We will miss him."

On Thursday, WellChoice rose 15 cents to $39.85.