CEO Profile: Jeffery Gardner of Windstream Corp.

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 26, 2012 11:06 am  

Windstream currently pays an annual dividend of $1 per share.

"It's very rewarding to see that we were able to go through that together, that from declining by 5 percent, we've gotten to where we want to be," Gardner said. "We go around, we talk to our investment analysts, and they say that we're a company that fights way above our weight class. Even though we're not the biggest telecom in the country, we're very influential."

It is, however, moving up in weight: Since 2006, the company has absorbed nine other businesses, including Valor Telecommunications Enterprises LLC, CT Communications, D&E Communications Inc., Lexcom, NuVox Inc., Iowa Telecommunication Services Inc., Hosted Solutions, Q-Comm Corp. and Paetec Holding Corp.

Of those, last year's $2.3 billion Paetec purchase proved the most notable, as it will propel Windstream into the Fortune 500.

The merger met some opposition from city groups in Rochester, N.Y., but was approved when Gardner agreed to continue the redevelopment of Midtown Tower, a venerable shopping mall in Rochester that was being turned into a headquarters for Paetec.

Gardner said the acquisition moved Windstream from its status as a regional company by adding $4.2 billion in revenue and granting thousands of miles of broadband cable across the country.

"I flew out there and I knew it was the right business to buy," Gardner said. "It said to the world, Windstream is really serious about getting into enterprise space. With that deal, we're a national player ... We're no small potatoes now. We're a Fortune 500 company selling to Fortune 500 companies."

Gardner said his leadership strategy at Windstream was to break down corporate barriers and push his workforce to better itself.

"From a leadership perspective, a big part of my job is to build that culture," he said. "The people I have working around me believe that stuff. These are not people who care about their titles, or if they have 2,000 or 3,000 people working for them. We're really just committed to making a difference every day."

Gardner said his team must have a sense of urgency as the telecom industry changes with each day. Now that Windstream has slowed down in acquisitions, Gardner said, he'll be focusing on execution of a business plan and integrating Paetec, as well as increasing the company's broadband reach.

In January, Windstream broke ground on a $340,000 broadband installation south of Harrison. The company is installing new broadband lines in 13 states using a $181.3 million grant fund from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Gardner said he felt 2011 was the company's greatest year yet.

"It really gave me great pride that this group was one of the few companies to go from one that was declining to one that's growing," he said. "It took a tremendous amount of effort over five years of strategic execution. That's what I feel proudest about."

 

 

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