MetLife Inc. Chairman Robert Benmosche has announced plans to retire next spring.[@@]

MetLife’s directors have elected C. Robert Henrikson, the company’s president and chief operating officer, to succeed Benmosche. MetLife directors also have appointed Henrikson to the board.

The MetLife board has been planning for Benmosche’s retirement for more than a year, and it settled on his successor in February after considering a number of internal and external candidates, MetLife says.

Benmosche, who will turn 61 next month, assumed his current positions in 1998. He led MetLife through a massive demutualization, and he negotiated the recent acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity from Citigroup Inc., New York, for $11.5 billion. MetLife hopes to close on the Travelers Life deal this summer.

“As I look ahead with confidence to the completion of the Travelers integration, and consider the overall strength of both the company and its management team, I have concluded that this is the right time to set a management transition schedule,” Benmosche says in a statement about his retirement plans. “The spring of 2006 is the time I want to commence an active and fulfilling retirement, leaving MetLife in the strongest possible position to go forward as a leader in our industry.”

Benmosche joined MetLife as an executive vice president in 1995. He was president and chief operating officer from November 1997 through June 1998.

Before Benmosche began working for MetLife, he spent 13 years at Paine Webber Inc., New York.

Henrikson, 58, started with MetLife as a salesman about 33 years ago. He took over as president in June 2004, after serving as president of MetLife’s U.S. insurance and financial services business.