Nextlink Communications Inc., a rapidly growing telecommunications firm, said yesterday that it plans to move its headquarters from a Seattle suburb to Northern Virginia in the next few months to take advantage of the region's vast supply of technology workers.
Daniel F. Akerson, chairman and chief executive of the 3,000-employee company with $300 million in projected sales this year, said four office sites are under consideration in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties near the large collection of Internet and telecom businesses along the Dulles Toll Road.
He said Nextlink initially will employ about 100 people in its headquarters here, with some but not all of them moving from the current headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., which will become the company's Pacific regional headquarters. He said he expects the new corporate headquarters to be open by late this year and no later than February, and that there could be 200 staffers working there by the end of next year.
"This area is to [computer] networks as Silicon Valley is to chips and Seattle is to software," said the 51-year-old Akerson, a McLean resident who was named Nextlink's chief executive last month after earlier stints as chief executive of cellular power Nextel Communications Inc., a sister firm of Nextlink, and president and chief operating officer of MCI Communications Corp.
Nextlink specializes in broadband communications for businesses, including local and long-distance telephone service, data transfers, Web hosting and e-mail, over fiber-optic and wireless facilities throughout the United States, with service in 45 markets.
Akerson, sitting in an office at Nextel overlooking the toll road, said Nextlink aspires to be "the telecommunications company for the 21st century." Toward that end, he said Nextlink expects by the end of 2000 to complete construction of a 16,000-mile high-speed fiber-optic network serving 60 markets in the United States and Canada with connections to hundreds of other cities in between.
It is essential to locate the firm here "because we can draw on the expertise of telephone and networking professionals," he said. "It's been my firm belief that people do make the biggest difference in a company. There's a lot of people here we can hire."
He said he told headquarters officials and staffers in Bellevue about the impending cross-country move on Sept. 21, the day he took over as chief executive. He said that "anyone who wants to move [from Bellevue] has a job here" and that some key executives have indicated they will move.
But he added: "I am sure, to be quite blunt, it has injected some uncertainty in people's lives."
Akerson, who has a reputation as an intense corporate manager, most recently has been co-chairman of Eagle River Investments LLC, a job he shared with cellular pioneer Craig O. McCaw, who founded Nextlink in 1994. McCaw also formed Eagle River in 1994 to invest in telecom companies, and it holds McCaw's controlling interests in Nextel, Nextlink and another Bellevue telecommunications company, Teledesic LLC.
Akerson said he had discussions with McCaw and Nextlink's board about moving the company to Northern Virginia before agreeing to assume operating control of the firm and "they agreed."
He said that he is a part owner of Nextlink through his minority ownership share of Eagle River and that he was given 3 million stock-option shares to become CEO, although he has not exercised them during his two weeks on the job.
Nextlink shares closed at $52.15 5/8 yesterday, up $1.90 5/8, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
CAPTION: Daniel F. Akerson is Nextlink's CEO.