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CenturyLink's unassuming CEO in spotlight after Qwest deal

By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post

April 3, 2011

Glen Post CenturyLink (Handout | NA)


Just over a decade ago, then-CenturyTel vice president of operations planning Ken Sprain presented chief executive Glen Post with what he thought would be an "uncomfortable" request.

One of Post's top lieutenants had recently resigned to lead another phone company and asked Sprain to join him for a few days to help analyze the new business.

Post didn't hesitate, giving Sprain his blessing to assist the former executive.

"So I went and spent a week trying to help this former executive get his arms around his new company, and Glen was good with that," said Sprain, who has since retired. "He always had time and concern for the individual employee."

Post leads a company that's guided by seven "unifying principles," including fairness, positive attitude, respect and faith words stamped on the sidewalk at its headquarters in Monroe, La.

"They're not just words to us," said the soft-spoken Post, 58. "They're the foundation of who we are as a company."

Renamed CenturyLink last year, the company closed its acquisition of Denver-based Qwest on Friday. The deal thrusts the low-key Post, a lifelong northeastern Louisiana resident, into the national spotlight as head of the third-largest U.S. landline phone company, behind Verizon Communications and AT&T.

Among his challenges will be to mesh the differing personalities of a small- town company with those from a more flamboyant culture, where former CEOs such as Dick Notebaert embraced media attention and spent millions of dollars to splash the Qwest name on sports stadiums and arenas.

Behind the scenes

Not well-known outside the Monroe area, Post also will be called on to rally employees scattered across 37 states, many of whom have dealt with years of landline declines and questions about the future of their core business.

It won't be an easy task, as even in his own backyard, officials say they would like to see Post with a higher-profile public persona.

"He is more of a behind-the-scenes person," Monroe Mayor James Mayo said. "I personally would like to see him more visible in the community."

Post joined CenturyLink in 1976 after earning his MBA from Louisiana Tech University.

"He grew up in the company," said Harvey Perry, non-executive vice chairman of CenturyLink's board of directors. "He has worked in virtually every capacity that you could work in at Century."

Post started in the finance organization and quickly caught the attention of company founder Clarke Williams.

"After I had been there a couple of years, I started working on acquisitions with Mr. Williams," Post said. "I traveled with him some. We analyzed companies and strategies together."

Over the years, Post has served as treasurer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer. He was named CEO in 1992 and chairman in 2002, a title he relinquished in July 2009 after CenturyLink's purchase of Kansas- based phone company Embarq.

Business associates and former employees describe Post as sharp, humble and unassuming.

"If you met him outside of his environment there, you might think he's a regular guy he might run a grocery store, a pharmacy or something like that," said Nick Bruno, president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. "Knowing what he has done with CenturyTel and Century Link, it's pretty remarkable."

Deal not without challenges

Post has led CenturyLink through numerous acquisitions since the 1990s. Ten years ago, the company operated fewer than 2 million landlines. It now serves 15 million phone and 5 million broadband subscribers and employs 47,500, including about 7,500 in Colorado.

"Glen was very much involved in every detail of every acquisition, both negotiating the acquisition and the financing of the acquisition, which, particularly in the early days, was critical," said Perry, who worked for CenturyLink for 20 years as general counsel and in other roles until retiring in 2003.

Outside of work, Post is an avid duck hunter, going twice a week during the season from mid-November to January.

"He's a great duck hunter, a good shot, calls the ducks well," Perry said.

Post's latest catch in the board room is his largest and may be the riskiest. While the combination will give CenturyLink a national footprint and shave an estimated $625 million in annual operating and investment costs, Qwest was saddled with nearly $12 billion in debt and faced more competition in its markets than CenturyLink sees in its mostly rural territories.

"A lot of people pass judgments on him because he's from little Monroe, La., but he's been a smart player in the telecom world for more than 20 years," said Donna Jaegers, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co. "The key question is, by acquiring Qwest, he's acquiring a lot of metro networks that have been starved for (investments). Is he biting off more than he can chew?"

Either way, CenturyLink's growth is in line with the vision founder Clarke Williams, who died in 2002, had for the company, according to his daughter, Carolyn Williams Perry. (Perry's husband is board member Harvey Perry).

She points to an interview in the 1990s in which her father, who she said thought of Post as a son, was asked for his thoughts about the company's growth.

"He said that if he were to die today," she recalled, "there would be no doubt that this company would grow to be as big as possible because of the bright young executives that this company has in place."

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209, or

Glen Post file

Age: 58

What he does: CenturyLink chief executive

Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting and MBA from Louisiana Tech University

Career: Joined company in 1976, named treasurer in 1984, chief financial officer in 1986, chief operating officer in 1988, CEO in 1992, chairman from 2002 to 2009

Family: Wife Cynthia, three grown sons and eight grandchildren

Interests: Deer and duck hunting, running