Verizon president and vice chairman steps down

Verizon Communications announced that second-in-command Lawrence T. Babbio Jr., a 41-year veteran of the Bell telephone system, plans to retire as president and vice chairman of the board by the end of March, according to an Associated Press report.

No successor was named, suggesting the 62-year-old's retirement decision was unexpected. Verizon said it will announce transition plans in the coming weeks, the Associated Press report said.

Babbio, who received $11.7 million in compensation last year, will be leaving with hefty post-employment benefits. At the end of 2005, Babbio had $12.7 million set aside in various retirement accounts and was due an annual pension of $113,400, the report added.

He also held 2.6 million in exercisable options and 'stock appreciation rights' that were worthless at the close of 2005.

Babbio began his career in the industry in 1966 with New Jersey Bell Telephone. He later rose to executive posts with corporate parent AT&T, then served as an executive for Bell Atlantic when that company was created in the court-ordered breakup of the national Bell monopoly.

Bell Atlantic merged with GTE in 2000 to create what is now Verizon, where Babbio has overseen the company's vast local phone operations and its business services division.

Babbio's retirement comes in the midst of a vast, pricey rewiring of that local phone network in which the company is replacing its copper lines with fiber-optic cables that can deliver cable TV and far-speedier Internet connections, the report further added.