Qwest: two planes are not enough!

We thought that when Qwest Communications (Q) announced on April 22, that it was “merging” with CenturyLink (CTL), we wouldn’t have Qwest (in many ways, the very inspiration for footnoted) to kick around much longer. Silly us! Though the merger hasn’t exactly been well-received in many corners — this article, which talks about the two companies creating an even larger marginally relevant money-pit — the stock is up since the news was announced.

Still, given Qwest’s long, sad slide, that’s hardly reason to go on a spending spree. Yet there in this exhibit to the 10-Q filed on Friday was this sentence that literally made us choke:

WHEREAS, Lessor has recently purchased a third aircraft which it desires to make available for use by the Lessee under the Agreement

Just in case there’s any doubt as to who’s who in this legal document, the Lessor here is Qwest and the Lessee is none other than Qwest Chairman and CEO Ed Mueller, whose penchant for the corporate aircraft has been well documented here over the years (see here and here among other examples). Needless to say, while Qwest has put out over 30 press releases since the deal was announced, we were not able to find one that provided details on the new plane. So it’s not exactly clear when the company bought the third plane. As the exhibit notes, the three planes are all Dassault Falcons of various vintages, with the newest one from 2005, so it’s not exactly a new plane. Still, at a time when many companies are ditching their corporate jets, it does send the wrong message to Qwest investors.

What’s also interesting here is that while Mueller’s role at the new company doesn’t appear to be of an executive nature — the press release announcing the merger only says that he’ll be on the board of directors — the agreement attached to the Q and dated July 29 is valid through the end of next year.


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