Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner Resigns

Tony Thomas Steps Up As Company Commits To REIT Plan
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Windstream Holdings announced Thursday that president and CEO Jeff Gardner has resigned, naming Tony Thomas as his successor.

Thomas, 43, also named a director of Windstream, has principally served as the company’s CFO for the past eight years, and most recently as its president of real estate investment trust (REIT) operations.  Windstream noted that it “remains committed” to the REIT spinoff plan. Windstream  announced plans to spin off its network assets as a REIT, a move that could result in big tax breaks.

Windstream director Francis X. “Skip” Frantz will lead the process to select a new president and CEO of the REIT.  Frantz will leave the board when the REIT deal is closed, anticipated to occur in the first half of 2015.

Gardner will stay on as a senior advisor to Thomas through Feb. 1, 2015.

Under Gardner, Windstream has moved ahead on  plans to launch “Kinetic,” a next-gen TV service powered by Ericsson’s Mediaroom platform that will initially be offered to more than 50,000 homes in Lincoln, Neb., where it matches up with Time Warner Cable. Windstream, which is keeping its video bundling services agreement with Dish Network intact, expects to roll Kinetic to more markets in 2015.

But Windstream’s residential broadband performance has been a laggard, at least when viewed through Netflix’s lens. In its ISP Speed Index for November, Windstream delivered an average Netflix stream of 2.05 Mbps, putting it in 13th place out of the 16 major ISPs tracked by the OTT provider.

Word of Gardner’s resignation comes a few weeks after Windstream announced a streamlining plan that would include the cutting of 350 jobs by December 1, with about 120 coming way of a voluntary buyout initiative.

“I am proud to have led Windstream from its creation in 2006,” said Gardner, who led the company’s spinoff from Alltell. “The Board and I agree that a change in perspective is needed in order to accelerate the pace of change within the company and to more effectively respond to the rapidly evolving needs of our customers. The Board’s confidence in Tony is well placed. His leadership and strong financial acumen will benefit investors and customers as he leads Windstream in the future.”

Windstream also announced a handful of other exec moves:

-Bob Gunderman has been promoted to CFO.  Gunderman, previously Windstream’s senior vice president and treasurer, has been serving as interim CFO since October.

-David Works, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, has been named president of enterprise.

-David Redmond, president of consumer, has been named president of consumer and small and medium business.

-Mike Shippey, senior vice president of carrier solutions, has been named president of carrier.