Beleaguered Qwest snaps up former Ameritech execs

DENVER, CO: The new CEO of Qwest Communications has brought in three senior executives from his days at Ameritech - including a new SVP of corporate communications, who will oversee all marketing for the company - in a senior-management overhaul.

DENVER, CO: The new CEO of Qwest Communications has brought in three senior executives from his days at Ameritech - including a new SVP of corporate communications, who will oversee all marketing for the company - in a senior-management overhaul.

Joan Walker has taken over from former SVP Michael Tarpey, who retired in April. From 1996 to 1999, she filled the same role at Ameritech, where Dick Notebaert was CEO. Notebaert succeeded Joseph Nacchio as chairman and CEO of Qwest in mid-June. Qwest's new CFO and its new VP of policy and law are also culled from the former Ameritech ranks.

Walker joins Qwest from Pharmacia, where she was SVP (a role she also held with Monsanto before that company's merger with Pharmacia & Upjohn).

The difficulties facing the company are a little short of formidable.

Qwest was told earlier this month that it is under criminal investigation by the US attorney's office in Denver. The SEC is also investigating Qwest's accounting practices.

But Walker relishes the challenges ahead of her. "The opportunity to be part of a proven management team with an exceptional leader was very compelling, she said. Walker reports directly to Notebaert, which is a first for someone in that position.

Her role has also been expanded beyond the traditional corporate communications function. Walker will oversee the entire marketing services organization, including advertising, branding, event marketing, and sales channel communications.

Previously, George Burnett, president and CEO of directory division Qwest Dex, was also the company's CMO. "Given the need at this point in time to ensure consistent communications across all disciplines and across multiple stakeholders, we thought it made a lot of sense to integrate paid media and earned media at the core, Walker said.

Qwest still retains Alexander Ogilvy for its commercial markets business, and Schenkein & Schenkein for consumer campaigns. Citigate Sard Verbinnen steps in for financial PR.

Walker said that Notebaert has prioritized employee communications from the beginning. "In a situation such as we face here, and many other corporations are facing, the importance of direct CEO and employee communications on an interactive basis cannot be overstated, she said.

To that end, he told a meeting of employees that he would like to be e-mailed with any questions. That same day, he received almost 2,000 messages.

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