Boss's departure surprises workers
Notebaert called a breath of fresh air after Nacchio
By James Paton
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Qwest employees said they'll miss Dick Notebaert,
describing their boss as a gung-ho CEO -- maybe too much of a
cheerleader at times -- who replied personally to e-mails and
heartily greeted them in the hallways. Taking a lunch break
outside the Qwest tower Monday, they credited Notebaert with
stabilizing the company and called his open, easygoing style a
breath of fresh air after Joe Nacchio.
"People are pretty pleased with him and with the positive
changes he's made," said Alan Wilburn, a sales manager. "He
seems to have re-established the company as a credible
Notebaert's e-mail to staff unveiling his retirement surprised
many at the Denver-based telco.
"I didn't see it coming," said Jim Ploger, a 10-year employee.
Ploger reflected on his first encounter with Notebaert shortly
after the Midwestern telecom executive arrived in town in 2002.
The technician found himself in an elevator with the new chief.
Notebaert extended his hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Dick," before
casually conversing for a few minutes, Ploger said. Since then,
Notebaert has remembered his face, if not his name, in a sea of
I'm sorry to see him go," Ploger said, noting improvements
Notebaert has made on the customer service front. "But he gave
us five years. I think he wants to get back to Chicago. He's
done a heck of a job."
Notebaert's decision comes on the heels of the departures of two
other high-ranking executives, and caught many others off-guard
as well, including the Communications Workers of America,
Qwest's largest union. Its next contract talks with Qwest are
scheduled next year.
"I'm shocked," said Annie Hill, vice president of CWA's District
7. "While I don't always agree with all the day-to-day
decisions, boy, they (the three executives) have really pulled
this company out from a real problem area."
Nelson Phelps, executive director of the Association of U S West
Retirees, was much less complimentary. He cited a "significant
deterioration of retiree benefits under Notebaert at a time he
has received what we think is obscene in terms of compensation."
Still, Phelps said, "We certainly would give credit to Dick
Notebaert for what he's done, quite frankly, in saving the
company from sure bankruptcy."
"He obviously has turned the company around financially, and
that's the good side."
One employee, who declined to give his name, said Notebaert's
enthusiasm was at times a little excessive, but he said
eventually it became contagious.
"He could be overly happy," the employee said, but still
deserves kudos for "pointing the company in the right
Employees leaving the building, some wearing Qwest shirts,
highlighted the stark differences between Notebaert and his
predecessor. Nacchio, ousted in 2002, was convicted in April on
19 counts of insider trading. One worker, who would not give
his name, said Notebaert was "a lot more accessible than Nacchio."
Wilburn, the account manager who has been with the company since
1981, when it was Mountain Bell, put it another way. "After
Nacchio," he said, "the devil would have been welcome relief."