Qwest (Q) hasn't made it out of the woods, but chief Dick Notebaert is enjoying the ride in luxury.Qwest's CEO received $9.15 million in total pay and stock option awards last year, according to a Tuesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Notebaert's 2003 payday comprised $1.1 million in salary, a $2.9 million bonus, $630,000 in additional cash and $4.5 million worth of stock options. According to the filing, Qwest's compensation committee approved of the bonus because the company attained "key financial and customer service results." Yet Qwest's stock price reflects the uncertainty surrounding the company more than any endorsement of Notebaert. Indeed, Qwest continues to struggle with a declining business, and faces a host of potential problems ranging from increasing shareholder unrest to an ongoing trial of midlevel former executives. The stock was stagnant last year despite a furious tech rally, and has lost ground since Notebaert replaced Nacchio. On Tuesday the shares fetched $4.28, down from $5.07 when Notebaert arrived on June 17, 2002.
After three years of employee cuts and business liquidations, like the sale of its lucrative yellow-pages division to pay-off debts, Qwest is still fighting the undertow of a receding telecom industry. During the fourth quarter, which ended in December, Qwest lost $307 million, or 17 cents a share, on revenue of $3.50 billion. The losses were double Wall Street's expectations. Notebaert's payoff still pales in comparison to peers like Verizon ( VZ) chief Ivan Seidenberg, who
landed $19.1 million in total compensation last year, and SBC chief Ed Whitacre, who collected a cool $19.5 million.