Crews will be taking down the big blue Qwest signs high above California Street next week, replacing them with the bilious green CenturyLink logo. So ends an acrimonious era, as Qwest -- the former fiber-optic whiz kid, the brash bad boy of the telecom world who came to town amid high buzz and hot stock plays -- sputters into history, meekly absorbed by a dowdy landline giant from Louisiana.
It was a whole different vibe back in 2000, when Qwest declared itself a serious player in the telecom wars by snapping up US West, one of the weakest of the "Baby Bells" created by the breakup of AT&T. The move generated considerable upheaval among shareholders, a lot of grandiose talk about transforming "US Worst" into a revolutionary wireless-broadband-mobile superstar, and a titanic clash of egos, with the Qwest suitors squaring off against US West CEO Sol Trujillo, a former lineman who'd worked his way up through the ranks of the old Mountain Bell to become the first American-born Hispanic to head a Fortune 200 company.
Joe Nacchio, Qwest's version of Voldemort, denounced US West management as "clowns" and helped himself generously to stock options. We know the rest of that story; in 2009 Pump-and-Dump Joe traded in his pinstripes for prison orange. (For more on Denver's dismal telecom history, see my 2005 feature "Waltz of the Cannibals.") But whatever happened to Sol Trujillo?
Trujillo hasn't exactly been resting on his golden parachute. He transitioned nicely from US West to a Paris-based wireless company and then to the top job at Australia's Telstra, a former government-owned telecom gone private, with extensive cable and Internet interests. You can read Trujillo's own account of his accomplishments there on his website, but you'll have to go elsewhere for the tasty bits about how he caused an uproar by calling Australia racist and backwards and came under fire for lackluster stock performance.
Trujillo's latest venture, launched earlier this year, is Garcia Trujillo, a consulting firm for Hispanic-focused businesses, formed with several other prominent executives, including business author and entrepreneur Charles Garcia. On his own site, Trujillo drums up speaker and consulting gigs by promoting himself as a sort of digital prophet, soaring through cyberspace and conquering its voids.
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"I have dedicated my career to advancing new technologies that respond to the needs of consumers and improve the way our society can protect and advance our collective and individual interests, " he declares. "I encourage you to look around this site to learn about how I have experienced the digital revolution. Remember, we are only as good as what we do tomorrow so I encourage you to connect with me so we can join with others to make the promise of tomorrow happen."
We're only as good as what we do tomorrow? But Mr. Trujillo! What have you done for us lately?
More from our Business archive: "Qwest merger and Phil Anschutz: More riches for Colorado's richest man?"