Clarence Otis, Chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, Joins Verizon Board of Directors

NEW YORK - Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) announced the election of Clarence Otis Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants, to the Verizon Board of Directors, effective today.

"Clarence Otis brings to the Verizon Board a strong financial background and deep understanding of a highly competitive, consumer-based industry," said Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon chairman and CEO. "As Verizon focuses on three network-based, customer-focused businesses going forward, his experience and insights will be invaluable."

The addition of Otis brings Verizon's total board membership to 13.

Otis was appointed chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants in December 2005, and he served as chief executive officer from December 2004 through November 2005.

He also served as Darden's executive vice president since April 2002, and president of Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill since December of that year. Among other posts, he has served as Darden's chief financial officer. He joined Darden in 1995 from Chemical Securities Inc. (now JP Morgan Securities Inc.), an investment banking firm, where he had been managing director and manager of public finance.

Otis also serves on the board of directors of St. Paul Travelers Companies Inc., VF Corporation, Enterprise Florida Inc. and Preserve Eatonville Inc.

Otis received his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1980 and his B.A., magna cum laude in 1977, from Williams College, where he was also Phi Beta Kappa.

Darden Restaurants Inc. is the owner and operator of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill and Seasons 52 restaurants. Headquartered in Orlando, Darden Restaurants is the largest publicly held casual dining restaurant company in the world, serving more than 300 million meals during fiscal 2004. The company operates more than 1,400 restaurants in the United States and Canada, with 153,000 employees and annual sales of $5 billion.