CenturyLink Ex-Director Says He Pushed for Changes

  • Zimmel, former Goldman Sachs executive, disputes exit account
  • Phone carrier says he made ‘environment that was unproductive’

The CenturyLink Inc. director who resigned after fellow board members said he was “creating an environment that was unproductive” had been pushing for changes to the board to help the telecommunications provider compete, he said in an interview.

Some board members have been around too long and should be replaced with new people who can help the company compete with cable providers and Google Inc., which offers its own high-speed Internet service in some markets, Joseph Zimmel said by telephone Tuesday. 

“We need to have a strategic vision and think about a logical succession plan,” Zimmel said.

Zimmel told the board on Jan. 19 he was resigning after refusing repeated requests since early December to withdraw his nomination for re-election, Monroe, Louisiana-based CenturyLink said in a regulatory filing Monday. The company didn’t say what Zimmel, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, did to create an unproductive environment. All board members except one had agreed Zimmel shouldn’t stand for election again because of his impact on the group’s chemistry, the telecommunications provider said.

In an e-mail included in the filing -- sent to CenturyLink’s general counsel, chief executive officer, chairman and external lawyer -- Zimmel said the decision to remove him from the board was taken after several directors met and “decided I had to go.”

Other board members felt “I added a lot of value, that I was an important and needed voice on the board.” he said. “It was a bad decision, badly executed and not made with proper governance and with consideration of the interests of all the shareholders.”

‘All This Tumult’

Zimmel had been on the board since 2003. Previously, he served in various roles at Goldman Sachs, including managing director of the investment banking division.

“If someone thought my verbiage or tone was somehow being viewed negatively, why didn’t someone just say something?” Zimmel said in the interview Tuesday. “Why put the board through all this tumult?”

In an e-mailed statement Tuesday, CenturyLink Chairman Bill Owens said the board encourages “diverse perspectives.” It regularly discusses succession planning and “how to best position the company to effectively compete in a rapidly evolving telecommunications environment.”

Separately, CenturyLink announced Monday it appointed Martha Bejar to its board. She is a former CEO and director of Flow Mobile Inc.

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Joe for his outstanding contributions to CenturyLink over his many years of service,” Owens said Monday. “We wish him the very best in the future.”

(Corrects to remove reference in 10th paragraph that Bejar was appointed to replace Zimmel.)
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