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Iranian now president of Qwest Communications

The Denver Post
May 4, 1999

A two-month search for a new president of Qwest Communications has ended.

Qwest's find, an Iranian-born, California-reared, 36-year-old telecom wunderkind, says he aims to help the Denver company revolutionize communication.

The company planned to announce today the appointment of Afshin Mohebbi as president and chief operating officer. He'll move to Denver and take charge of Qwest's day-to-day operations by June 1.

Mohebbi comes to Qwest from British Telecommunications, where he heads the United Kingdom markets division, an $18 billion business unit that serves 20 million residential customers and 1.5 million businesses in the United Kingdom. That division alone has 47,000 people - compared with Qwest's 8,000 - and its sales are five times that of the fast-growing Denver company.

Prior to joining BT in 1997, Mohebbi worked at Baby Bell SBC Communications and at its Pacific Bell unit.

Via telephone Monday, Qwest's Chairman and CEO Joseph Nacchio introduced Mohebbi as "a West Coast, Silicon Valley type of guy,'' with an extensive background at two very large telecommunications companies.

High intellect, energy and a successful background are among the characteristics Nacchio said won Mohebbi the job. Nacchio added that Mohebbialso brings an understanding of European markets and local phone companies, which will help Qwest as it builds out its 18,000-mile, high-speed fiber optic network and pushes next-generation Internet services into businesses and homes.

Nacchio joked that his new "youthful senior executive'' is making him feel a little old. But while Mohebbi is the youngest managing director of a division at BT, his experience already rivals the careers of some older execs.

Mohebbi spent more than 16 years at SBC and BT and has a master's degree in business administration and degree in electrical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

Born in Iran, he grew up in California and had lived in Northern California almost 20 years before spending two in Great Britain.

As president and COO, Mohebbi will report to Nacchio and oversee Qwest's operations, which include network, sales and revenue growth, meeting customer expectations and coordinating the company's internal divisions.

Nacchio, who remains chairman and CEO, will focus on the company's broader strategy and overall financial health.

"We've grown so rapidly that I think we need either 48 hours in a day or two of us at the top of the company,'' Nacchio said.

Nacchio said he interviewed about half dozen candidates for the position. Qwest announced in late February it would search for a new president as Nacchio became chairman and CEO. But when Nacchio flew to London to meet Mohebbi, he was quickly catapulted to the top of the list, Nacchio said.

The goal was "to hire someone who didn't see this as a job change but saw this as an opportunity to change the industry,'' Nacchio said.

Mohebbi, who was part of BT's push last year to turn telephone lines into high-capacity Internet access, bubbles with affinity for the telecommunications industry and the "revolution'' that is taking place in it today.

"You have to make sure you feel comfortable with the company. I feel comfortable with the company, Qwest being that key player that could make the change in the revolution we've got going on in the industry,'' Mohebbi said. In fact, he said, Qwest is the only place he wants to be to help usher in that change.

"It was one of those few calls you get that you can't refuse,'' he said, adding that he'll try to "make a great company a bit greater.''


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