"While we certainly sympathize with Qwest management's plight and understand their desperation given Qwest's circumstances, we nevertheless feel compelled to again express our view that its proposal is profoundly flawed and its claims unsupportable," Seidenberg wrote in the March 21 letter sent to MCI's chairman and chief executive.
Notebaert shot back with his own letter to MCI's board of directors, and his spokesman e-mailed a statement to a reporter saying, "The fact of the matter is, Qwest has submitted a clearly superior offer for MCI."
(David Zalubowski -- AP)
The fight is full of evidence of their leadership styles, those watching from the sidelines say.
"What Seidenberg represents is the mega-size of this industry. He represents it in both substance and style -- he's relatively cool and calm," said Tom Juravich, director of the Labor Relations and Research Center and professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who studies telecommunications firms.
"Notebaert represents the opposite. He represents the smaller, more entrepreneurial side of telecom," because Qwest is much smaller and weaker, he said. "He's saying, 'Gimme a chance'; he's playing the outsider."
Whereas MCI chief executive Michael D. Capellas stands to make $9 million for selling his company, neither Notebaert, 57, nor Seidenberg, 58, stands to gain personally from completing a deal.
But analysts say the stakes are high for both. Verizon needs MCI's network and its roster of corporate customers to compete with the recently announced combination of AT&T Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. Others say Notebaert has staked a big part of Qwest's future on getting the deal done.
"For Verizon, it's about having a set of assets that allow them to be one of two big telecommunications companies, with assets symmetrical with SBC and AT&T," said Blair Levin, an analyst with Legg Mason Wood Walker. For Qwest, it is a chance to reduce more than $17.29 billion in debt by acquiring MCI's plentiful cash, Levin said, as well as stay in the contest against its much bigger rivals by acquiring MCI's corporate customer base.
Notebaert's approach in trying to win MCI is to make himself the public face of his company. After claiming Qwest's initial offer was ignored by the MCI board, Notebaert staged a meeting with investors and members of the press at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, taking his case directly to MCI shareholders, who will eventually vote on the fate of the company.
In subsequent weeks, Notebaert took his case on tour, visiting Washington to host a cocktail hour on the eve of a congressional hearing about mergers, to which Qwest was not invited.