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Anschutz unloads Qwest
Financier will trim holdings in company to almost nothing by 2010
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Friday, March 2, 2007

Qwest founder Philip Anschutz has unloaded the rest of his stock in the company, a little more than two weeks before the start of former chief executive Joe Nacchio's criminal insider-trading trial.

Anschutz Co., the Denver financier's investment firm, sold 2.7 million Qwest shares this week and entered into a contract to sell another 20.6 million shares by September 2010, according to a regulatory filing Thursday.

The deals trim Anschutz's holdings in Denver-based Qwest to essentially nothing.  In November 2003, he held 300.4 million shares.

For the most part, Anschutz has cut his ownership in the phone company through a series of "forward sales agreements" announced over the past year.  The agreements allow Anschutz to keep the voting rights of the shares until they're sold.  He has also donated 53.5 million Qwest shares to his charitable organization, the Anschutz Foundation.

In total, Anschutz has pocketed more than $1.5 billion from selling his Qwest holdings in the past year.

He's also slated to receive a portion of future stock gains through 2010.

Anschutz is merely diversifying the holdings of his investment company, said spokesman Jim Monaghan.

"In the context of an investment company that's investing in a broad number of things, a decision was made to monetize Qwest stock at this point," Monaghan said.  "It was a business decision that made sense to those involved on the investment side of the company."

Anschutz's investments in recent years have broadened from telecom, real estate and oil and gas to a variety of entertainment assets, which include theaters and sports teams.

Anschutz received roughly $24 million from selling 2.7 million Qwest shares at prices ranging from $8.65 to $8.78 a share in deals completed Tuesday, according to the regulatory filing.

In addition, Anschutz received $150.5 million for 20.6 million shares as part of the forward-sales contract that entitles him to a portion of future gains in the stock price.

Anschutz was once Qwest's chairman but no longer sits on the company's board of directors.

Nacchio, handpicked by Anschutz to lead Qwest, is accused of selling $100.8 million in Qwest stock in early 2001 while he knew the company's finances were deteriorating.

He has pleaded not guilty to 42 charges of illegal insider trading. His trial is set to begin March 19 in federal court in Denver.

Qwest stock closed Thursday at $8.74, down 14 cents.

Several current Qwest executives have unloaded millions of dollars in shares in recent months, including chief executive Dick Notebaert and chief financial officer Oren Shaffer. Shaffer announced this week he will retire April 1.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_5335553