Here's the first and last good thing you'll hear me say about former Qwest (NYSE: Q ) CEO Joe Nacchio: He made room for current CEO Dick Notebaert. But now Notebaert, just 59, wants to retire.
I can hardly blame him. Notebaert joined Qwest in 2002, in the wake of an accounting scandal that cost Nacchio his job and, come his sentencing in July, likely his freedom. Nacchio was convicted of 19 of 42 counts of insider trading in April.
Notebaert was the guy charged with cleaning up the mess that Nacchio left. A mess that led to roughly $2 billion in misclassified revenue, restatements, an SEC investigation, and a lengthy flirtation with bankruptcy that included a battle for MCI, which it ultimately lost to Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) .
Yet Qwest today is profitable, thanks to the persistence of Notebaert and a team of employees who didn't give up on the company headquartered in Denver, even after everyone, including more than a few of us Fools, said they should.
I'm not all that surprised. Notebaert was a veteran of the telecom wars in his 30-year career with Ameritech, which was acquired by SBC Communications in 1999. Today, that conglomerate is part of what is known as the "new" AT&T (NYSE: T ) .
Notebaert also strikes me as an uncommonly honest guy, who knew his role at Qwest was to be more than a good steward. He had to be a model executive who'd take corporate governance as seriously as earnings targets. Mission accomplished, I'd say.
Thanks, Dick, for everything.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers was on the verge of canceling his Qwest service before Notebaert found a way to restore the company's service culture. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy hangs up on hucksters. You should, too.