Charles Lee and Ivan Seidenberg
• Oversaw the smooth integration of Bell Atlantic and GTE
• Increased revenues 4% in 2001, while rivals crashed and burned
PHOTOS BY JONATHAN SAUNDERS
One of the truisms of Corporate America is that two chief executives in the corner office is one too many. Maybe nobody told Charles Lee and Ivan Seidenberg, co-CEOs of Verizon Communications (VZ ). In June, 2000, Lee's GTE Corp. and Seidenberg's Bell Atlantic Corp. combined to form the largest local telephone company in the country. They billed the deal as a merger of equals and agreed to share the CEO job.
That should have been the cue for power plays, betrayal, and backbiting, right? In fact, power--and board seats--are split down the middle. And while more than a dozen telecom upstarts have gone bankrupt and the long-distance players have seen their stocks plunge, Verizon has cranked out steady results. It should earn $8 billion in 2001 on revenues of $66 billion, up 4%. Meantime, Verizon's stock held its ground through late December vs. a 16% decline for the Standard & Poor's Telecom Index.
It helps that Lee, 61, and Seidenberg, 55, have known each other for 10 years. It also helps that they are only sharing the CEO job until June, when Lee will step down. Most important, Lee says, they trust each other. "Anybody who says it can't be done: Wrong," says Lee. "Anybody who says it's easy: Also wrong." He should know.