Verizon CEO gearing up for retirement, or not?

December 11, 2009

seidenbergCEOs are always pretty coy when asked about their retirement plans.  Verizon Communications Ivan Seidenberg, 63, definitely falls into that category as evidenced by his request that the Wall Street Journal’s Joann Lublin keep his reply off the record when she asked him about succession at a conference on Friday.

Surprisingly Lubin agreed, never mind that the two were discussing the matter onstage in front of a sizeable audience at a Nasdaq conference.

But even this wasn’t enough to make Seidenberg spill the beans because, as he said,  setting a date would create issues. The executive did say that he would “stay until the board decides it needs a change” causing us to wonder if  this means he’s hoping to work for as long as possible.

However, Seidenberg did point out to Lublin and everybody else, that no past CEO of Verizon has ever stayed on the job after reaching 65 years of age. He said that when the time comes, the company will be in a good position as the board talks about the succession in all of its meetings. As a result, he said Verizon has a list of potential internal successors who all report directly to Seidenberg himself.

After the public discussion ended, Seidenberg told me it was part and parcel of his job to help the board create a set of options for CEO succession. But he sidestepped a question about his own personal preference to stay or go at 65.

“What my desire is, is to make sure that the company is positioned for the next 50 years correctly. When we’re ready to do that we’re going to make that change,” he said. Then, helpfully, he added,  “Certainly in the next 50 years I’m going to make a change.”

(Photograph: Reuters)

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