Level 3's Crowe to step down at the end of 2013

James Crowe, Level 3 Communications' (NYSE: LVLT) CEO, on Thursday said he will step down from his post at the end of the year as part of a broader leadership succession at the competitive provider.

James Crowe

As a result of Crowe's impending departure, the company's board of directors has formed a Transition Planning Committee to help with the process of finding a replacement CEO and developing a leadership transition plan.

However, the company said that the "timing of the transition is subject to change," meaning that he could leave before the end of the year.

Crowe said in a release that he and the board had been talking about a CEO succession plan and felt that this was the right time to leave the company as it has gained a more consistent financial footing.

"Given the company's financial and operational strength, we have concluded that it is an appropriate time to begin the transition to new leadership with new perspectives," he said in a release announcing his departure. "With our unique global network, the industry's most comprehensive portfolio of advanced IP/optical services and an increasingly strong financial position, Level 3 is extraordinarily well positioned to benefit from the worldwide explosion of voice, data and video carried over the Internet."

In Q4 2012, the company reported that revenue rose $1.59 billion year-over-year, a factor driven by revenue gains in both its Core Network Services and Enterprise CNS divisions.

Crowe's departure from the company marks the end of a long era. After assuming the CEO role at Level 3's predecessor company, Kiewit Diversified Group Inc. (KDG), in 1997, Crowe helped create a single company that was focused on providing communications and information services to other carriers and businesses.

Over the past 16 years, Crowe led Level 3 through various transitions and challenging market conditions, including the crash of the dotcom era in 2002 and the major economic downturn in 2008.

With Crowe set to leave, the question is who will succeed him. While the most obvious internal candidate would be current President and COO Jeff Storey, who spearheaded the company's multi-billion-dollar deal to acquire Global Crossing in 2011, the release announcing Crowe's departure did not signify whether the company would look at internal or external candidates.

For more:
- see the release

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