Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT) announced Thursday that its Chief Executive Officer, James Q. Crowe, intends to retire before the end of this year. In a statement, Crowe argued that "the company's financial and operational strength" today makes it easier to accomplish a handoff to a new leader.

In response to the news, Level 3 says that its Board of Directors has begun searching for a replacement. No candidates have yet been named and, with Crowe apparently willing to remain in his post until a suitable replacement has been found, and to "assist the Board in assuring that the transition is successful," there is no need to choose an interim CEO at this time.

Investors reacted positively to the advance warning that change is afoot, bidding up Level 3 shares 4.8% in Thursday trading, to close at $21.37.