Bad ‘Chemistry’ at CenturyLink Leads Director to Exit

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

A CenturyLink Inc. director resigned after his fellow board members said he was “creating an environment that was unproductive,” leading to a dispute that has now escalated into public view with the disclosure of sharply worded internal e-mails.

In a regulatory filing, the company didn’t explain what it means to create an unproductive environment or what exactly Joseph Zimmel, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, did to generate it. 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.

After refusing repeated requests since early December to withdraw his name from consideration for re-election, Zimmel told the board on Jan. 19 he was resigning, the Monroe, Louisiana-based company 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.”

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. Zimmel didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

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

Separately, CenturyLink appointed Martha Bejar to the board. Bejar is a former CEO and director of Flow Mobile Inc.

(Corrects to delete reference to Zimmel in final paragraph of story that ran on Jan. 25.)
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