Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner: Company Poised for Growth

by Kate Knable  on Wednesday, May. 9, 2012 1:51 pm  

Windstream Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gardner

Windstream Corp. of Little Rock will be working in 2012 to integrate companies from past purchases, CEO and President Jeff Gardner said at Wednesday's shareholder meeting.

Windstream has bought nine companies since 2006, and most of them have been fully integrated. But the only purchase of 2011 - a $2.3 billion deal for Paetec Holding Corp. - will be further transitioned this year, Gardner said.

Gardner didn't elaborate, but said the "heavy lifting" of the transition was already completed. The deal is expected to propel Windstream into the Fortune 500.

"Yes, we've bought a lot of companies," Gardner said. Windstream's focus is "on our balance sheet. So, financially, we're very strong, in a position to move forward. This is precisely where we wanted to be."

At the meeting Wednesday, Gardner announced a 25-cent per share dividend to be paid July 16 to shareholders of record as of June 29.

Tax on Dividends

Also Wednesday, Gardner was scheduled to appear on CNBC to talk about his opposition to raising the tax on dividends.

Gardner is one of several CEOs who co-signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner opposing the move, which is part the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

Electing the Board

Shareholders on Wednesday re-elected all nine of Windstream's board of directors, re-approved the company's performance incentive compensation plan, voted from an advisory position to approve the executive compensation outlined in its March proxy filing and approved PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as independent auditor of Windstream's consolidated financial statements for fiscal year 2012.

As the board recommended, two stockholder proposals were rejected. The first that failed was a proposal from the Trust for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Pension Benefit Fund  to eliminate accelerated vesting of equity for senior executives upon a change in control of the company.

The second failing proposal, from the Communications Workers of America, would have required the management to release detailed lists of Windstream's political contributions and specifics about the executives in charge of overseeing such donations.

About 30 CWA members, wearing red shirts and carrying signs, protested from the sidewalk along Markham Street in Little Rock as Windstream employees and shareholders left the meeting at the Capital Hotel. The group vocalized their opposition to Windstream's reduction in recent years of health care benefits to retirees.   

The protestors shouted repeatedly and in unison, "Corporate greed has got to go." 



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