Sharilyn Gasaway: A Veteran of $28B Deals Stays Active

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

Sharilyn Gasaway was the woman behind Alltel Corp.'s numbers.

Gasaway was the chief financial officer for the Little Rock telecommunications company when it went from a public company to a private one in 2007 and then sold to Verizon Wireless in 2009.

"I think it's rare for a CFO to be involved in as many transactions as Alltel was in such a short period of time," Gasaway said. "We had two $28 billion transactions within a two-year period of time."

After the sale of Alltel, Gasaway, along with other members of the executive management team, left the company. She took the opportunity to enjoy time with her family. "I have missed out on a lot of things with them," she said.

But she was pulled back into the business world in February 2009, when she was elected to J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.'s board of directors. And recently she was named to the board of Genesis Energy L.P. of Houston, where she serves on a number of committees.

"I'm trying to keep myself in the business world so that I stay active," Gasaway said. "I enjoy it very much, being a director."

The Louisiana native always wanted to be an accountant and thought becoming a lawyer would be a double threat.

"But after a year of law school, ... I became very [disenchanted] with it," she said.

Gasaway went to work as an auditor for Arthur Andersen LLC of Chicago in its Florida office. She transferred to the firm's Little Rock office in 1995 so she and her husband could be closer to their families.

One of her first assignments was handling the Alltel account, which consumed about 70 percent of her time. "I was lucky enough to get to work on the account," she said. "There were so many different pieces of it. It can keep you busy almost all year long."

In 1999, the Alltel CFO recruited Gasaway to the company. "I started out as a director of general accounting and then controller for a communications business," she said.

In 2002, Gasaway became the corporate controller for Alltel, and in 2006, she was promoted to CFO. "I guess, professionally, being the CFO of Alltel was kind of like my dream job," she said.

In 2007, however, Alltel, the nation's fifth-largest wireless company, was for sale. "I was very involved throughout that entire process, making sure everyone knew the information that we had," she said. "The financial information was most critical because if you didn't have something correct, well, it could cause a problem."

She also had to discuss Alltel's numbers at road shows, in front of as many as 600 people, to help close the deal.

Two private equity firms, TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners, bought Alltel for $27.5 billion at the end of 2007, making it the biggest deal in Arkansas that year.

Within months, Alltel was making news again. In June 2008, Verizon announced it was acquiring Alltel in a $28.1 billion transaction.

Gasaway said the transactions were "a great experience. But it was very time consuming."

In February 2009, she became a member of the board of directors of J.B. Hunt of Lowell, where she reviews all its financial statements. She also is a member of the audit and the nominating and corporate governance committees.

She also serves on the Louisiana Tech University College of Business Advisory Board.

Gasaway said she enjoys serving on a company's board. "It's kind of what I did as an auditor, in terms of being able to step in and see the big picture of a company," she said. "It allows me also to continue to spend time with my family, which I've missed a lot."




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