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Qwest Chief Executive Notebaert Announces Retirement

Qwest Communications International Chief Executive Richard Notebaert, credited with leading the U.S. phone company toward recovery from losses and massive debt, said Monday that he would retire.

Notebaert, 59, said he would step down as CEO and chairman after the company finds a successor. Qwest shares fell more than 8%.

"The time has come for me to spend more time with family and focus on other commitments," Notebaert said in a statement. "I look forward to working closely with the Qwest Board in its search" for a replacement.

Notebaert has been chairman and CEO of Qwest, which mainly serves the midwestern United States, since June 2002. He is credited for leading the company toward recovery following the burst of the tech bubble.

Qwest shares, which more than doubled over the past 5 years, are up about 20% so far this year. The company, however, is seen as the weakest of the former "Baby Bells" and is particularly vulnerable to growing competition from cable companies and declining sales of traditional phone services.

Unlike industry leader AT&T and No. 2 carrier Verizon Communications, Qwest does not have a wireless service. Its territory, which includes Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming, are also seen as more difficult and costly places to maintain and deploy new services.

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Some analysts have said Qwest might be looking for a merger or a buyout to ensure its survival.

Qwest said in the statement on Monday that it did not plan to change its business strategy as a result of Notebaert's retirement and had set no timetable for naming a new chairman and CEO.

Before joining Qwest, Notebaert was president and chief executive of communications equipment company Tellabs. He also worked for Ameritech for 30 years.

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