Wake-Up Call: The bell tolls for Joe Nacchio

Yesterday, with the news that the San Francisco Chronicle may go down, leaving the free Examiner the only real daily in SF, Phil Anschutz once again looked like the smartest guy in the room.

Today, he's also looking like the luckiest. Because before Anschutz bought the dying Examiner label and turned it into a free daily, he was buying up railroads, using the tracks for fiber optic lines, which made Qwest possible. And then in 1997, Anschutz hired Joe Nacchio to run that company.

Now an appeals court has affirmed Nacchio's April 2007 conviction for insider trading, and the former Qwest CEO has been ordered directly to jail -- although a stop at the U.S. Supreme Court is likely,

Overseeing Nacchio's original trial was Chief U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham, whose refusal to allow an expert to testify inspired an appeals panel to order a new trial last March. Yesterday, though, the original trial conviction was reinstated -- but Nottingham wasn't in the courthouse to see it. He resigned last fall in the face of an investigation into alleged judicial misconduct involving porno, prostitutes and general bad behavior. (I saw some of Nottingham's non-judicial behavior in action, when he cruised through Elway's right after the closing arguments in Nacchio's case.)

Whether Nacchio can use Nottingham to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court is unknown. But one thing is certain: Anschutz is not just the smartest guy in the room, but perhaps the luckiest, because while a half-dozen Qwest executives wound up as defendants in the courtroom, his role there was solely as a witness.

To an amazing display of what Nottingham described as "overarching greed" -- but also outsized ego.

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