Jeffrey Kindler, the executive who was promoted from general counsel to chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc. four years ago, has suddenly retired at age 55.

Late Sunday New York-based Pfizer announced that Kindler was leaving and that the board of directors had chosen Ian Read, 57, head of the company’s global biopharmaceutical operations, to succeed him as CEO. The board said it would name a separate chairman in two weeks.

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