In March 2000, Joseph P. Nacchio, the brash chief executive of Qwest Communications International Inc., predicted his company's $50 billion merger with US West would create a limber, high-growth global telecommunications powerhouse.
Former Baby Bells such as US West -- the dominant local provider in 14 western states -- were widely thought to be lumbering relics. The future seemed to belong to highfliers such as Qwest, which spent billions investing in fiber-optic networks worldwide. But since then the long-distance industry has suffered a devastating downturn and the local telephone monopolies are once again emerging as havens for investors.
Yesterday, Nacchio, a former AT&T Corp. executive, felt the impact of that shift in thinking. Qwest's board announced that it had replaced him amid the firm's struggles with a plummeting stock price, more than $26 billion in debt and a federal investigation into its accounting practices.
Taking Nacchio's place is Richard C. Notebaert, a 30-year veteran of the local telephone industry, with a reputation as a personable, low-key executive. Notebaert most recently was chief executive of Tellabs Inc., a telecom-equipment manufacturer. Before that he served for five years as CEO of Ameritech Communications Inc., once the Midwest's dominant local telephone company. Ameritech merged with SBC Communications Inc. in 1999.