More Messages: The Sort-Of Scoop

In its August 3 edition, the Rocky Mountain News published "Sol's Goodbye Kiss," an article that seemed to offer up new information about a gag-inducing corporate giveaway. Reporter Jeff Smith's first paragraph read, "Qwest Communications agreed to pay then-US West CEO Sol Trujillo a $72 million golden parachute a day before the merger between the two communications giants closed on June 30, 2000." A few graphs down, he added that details of the package were "believed to be previously unreported and amended from an earlier severance agreement."

A scoop? In a way -- but the closer it's examined, the less scoopy it becomes.

The Denver Post reported on three separate occasions that Trujillo walked off with a severance package worth $71 million -- and what's a million bucks among friends? The first mention came on December 15, 2002 as part of "Unmasking Qwest," an award-winning series by Miles Moffeit and Kris Hudson. I was unable to find a copy of this article using a free online search engine; I ultimately tracked it down with the help of the Nexis subscription service. But the key passage reads: "In March 2000, before the paperwork on the merger was completed, Trujillo decided to depart, and he left with more than $71 million in cash and perks." Post columnist Al Lewis mentioned this total twice more, in separate 2005 columns accessible on his blog.

Okay, there's a slight discrepancy in the figures, and the Rocky effort does break down the sum in ways the Post didn't. But the gist of the information billboarded at the top of the story has been floating around for the better part of four years. Some scoop. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts