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Teva Pharm's chairman Phillip Frost to step down by year end

Teva Chairman Phillip Frost (C) stands with outgoing CEO Shlomo Yanai (R) and incoming CEO Jeremy Levin during a news conference in Tel Aviv January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Nir Elias

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Phillip Frost, chairman of the world's biggest generic drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA), said on Wednesday he will step down by the end of this year.

"With the progress we have made, and continue to make, at Teva, I have advised the board that I believe it will be appropriate for me to step down as chairman approximately by the end of this year," Florida-based Frost said in a letter to shareholders of Israel-based Teva (TEVA.N). "Our corporate governance and nominating committee is working on a succession plan."

Frost, the largest individual shareholder in Teva with a 1.53 percent stake worth $752 million (443.54 million pounds), was due to retire in about a year from now.

A clash between Frost and other board members led to the abrupt departure in October of former CEO Jeremy Levin, who was replaced by turnaround specialist Erez Vigodman. Analysts said divisions within the board over the direction of Teva wreaked havoc on the company in recent years.

The Marker financial news website said Teva's vice chairman, Amir Elstein, was a candidate to replace Frost.

Frost said the size of Teva's board has been reduced by a net two members, to 13 from 15. In January, Frost said Teva planned to reduce the size of its board and add new members with global healthcare experience.

The board has proposed for election to the board Jean-Michel Halfon, a leading pharmaceutical industry executive with over 35 years of experience, including in emerging markets, an area where Teva is seeking to expand. Halfon spent 32 years at Pfizer (PFE.N).

Frost reiterated that contrary to the company's practice over the past decade, Vigodman, who was a member of the board before becoming CEO, will continue to be a member going forward.

Teva shares were up 0.7 percent to $51.83 in early New York trade.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer)