Qwest CEO upbeat after MCI bid
Notebaert plays down possibility of trying hostile offer

By Jeff Smith, Rocky Mountain News
Friday, May 6, 2005

Qwest Chief Executive Dick Notebaert seemed in high spirits Thursday, three days after the Denver telco bowed out of the running for MCI Inc.

"We don't fall in love with the deal.  We know when to walk," Notebaert said in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News.  "It's like the song says, 'We know when to hold them, and we know when to fold them.' "
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While Qwest's statement Monday complained the three-month bidding war had been "skewed" against the company, Notebaert was more diplomatic, saying he was puzzled MCI left $1 billion on the table and didn't give Qwest one last chance to counter.

MCI on Monday rejected Qwest's $9.75 billion, $30-a-share offer in favor of Verizon's $8.44 billion, $26-a-share offer.

Notebaert played down the possibility of launching a hostile offer.  Separately, however, Qwest Chief Financial Officer Oren Shaffer said at a Morgan Stanley conference that Qwest was continuing to "assess the situation."

Notebaert said Qwest, which provides local phone service in a 14-state region and operates a long-distance fiber-optic network, has many options for growing its business.  Many analysts said Qwest was running the risk of overpaying for MCI, and Qwest shares have climbed 20 cents, to $3.62, since the company dropped out Monday.

As in previous interviews, Notebaert insisted he's never discussed bankruptcy reorganization even as a last resort.

The takeover battle with Verizon catapulted Qwest into the national spotlight.  While some viewed Qwest, hobbled by $17 billion of debt, as desperate, others described the 40,000-employee company as spunky.

And the attention had to be refreshing compared with the company's accounting scandals of the past.