GTE to sell some telephone properties in Wisconsin to Telephone USA of Wisconsin, LLC, and CenturyTel, Inc.

IRVING, Texas - GTE today announced a pair of agreements in which Telephone USA, of Wisconsin, LLC, and CenturyTel Inc., will buy 126,410 customer access lines (YE'98) from GTE in Wisconsin for $365 million.

They are the most recent agreements in GTE's previously announced initiative to sell approximately 1.6 million telephone lines in the United States. To date, GTE has agreements to sell more than 940,000 access lines in eight states.

In one agreement, Telephone USA of Wisconsin - a private entity that was recently formed to bid specifically on and purchase a portion of GTE's wireline properties - will buy 61,612 customer access lines and 35 exchanges from GTE. The 68 GTE employees who work in those exchanges will become Telephone USA of Wisconsin employees.

Joseph Stroud, founder of Jovon Broadcasting Corporation in Chicago, Ill., and president of Telephone USA Investments, Inc., will be chairman of Telephone USA of Wisconsin. CenturyTel is one of the major partners in Telephone USA of Wisconsin, and will provide the new company operational, financial and management support. The company will operate under the CenturyTel brand name.

In a separate transaction, CenturyTel signed a letter of intent to purchase outright an additional 64,798 access lines and 42 exchanges from GTE in Wisconsin. These exchanges have 37 GTE employees who will become CenturyTel employees.

"We are pleased to complete two more important transactions in our ongoing wireline properties sales effort, with agreements that include provisions for the fair and equitable treatment of the affected GTE employees in Wisconsin," said, John Appel, president-GTE Network Services.

In late June, CenturyTel agreed to buy GTE's 213,651 customer access lines in Arkansas and agreed in July to become an equity partner in Spectra Communications Group, LLC, which is buying a portion of GTE's local exchange properties in Missouri (116,149 access lines).

    In the past three months, GTE also has reached agreements to sell:

  • 186,839 GTE customer access lines in Arizona, California, and Minnesota to Citizens Utilities,

  • 20,564 access lines in Alaska to the Alaska Telephone Exchange Acquisition Corporation (ATEAC), a consortium of four Alaska-based companies,

  • 280,422 access lines in Iowa to Iowa Network Services, Inc.,

  • GTE Government Systems, except for the Information Systems Division, to General Dynamics, and

  • GTE Airfone to Oak Hill Capital Partners.
  • Proceeds from the sale of GTE wireline properties - as well as GTE Airfone and GTE Government Systems - will be used for investment in other strategic initiatives, including GTE's recent purchase of Ameritech wireless properties in Illinois and Missouri.

    The deals do not affect GTE's offering of long distance and Internet services to consumers in Wisconsin. Current directory publishing agreements will continue at least until December 31, 2001.

    Approval of the sales is required by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The closing of the sales and transfer of GTE operations to Telephone USA and CenturyTel are expected to be complete by mid-year 2000.

    After the sales' closings, GTE will still own and operate wireline properties serving more than 370,000 access lines in Wisconsin.

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    About GTE

    With 1998 revenues of more than $25 billion, GTE is a leading telecommunications provider with one of the industry's broadest arrays of products and services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 17 states, as well as nationwide long-distance, directory, and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. Outside the United States, the company serves customers on five continents. Additional information about GTE can be obtained at http://www.gte.com.

    About Telephone USA, LLC

    Telephone USA of Wisconsin, LLC, based in Chicago, Ill., is a private entity that was recently formed to bid specifically on and purchase a portion of GTE's wireline properties. It is owned by CenturyTel, Telephone USA Investments, Inc. and other investors. Joseph Stroud, founder of Jovon Broadcasting Corporation and president of Telephone USA Investments, is Telephone USA of Wisconsin's Chairman of the Board. Telephone USA Investments, Inc., as well as the other co-investors will elect 3 of 5 Board members. CenturyTel will elect 2 board seats, will participate in the managerial aspects of the company and will provide operational, financial and management support for Telephone USA of Wisconsin. The company will operate under the CenturyTel brand name.

    About Telephone CenturyTel

    CenturyTel, headquartered in Monroe, La., provides integrated communications services - including local exchange, wireless, long distance, Internet access and security monitoring services - to more than 2 million customers in 21 states. CenturyTel is the ninth largest domestic local exchange telephone company, based on access lines, and the 10th largest cellular company, based on population equivalents owned in the U.S. Additional information about CenturyTel can be obtained on its web site http://www.centurytel.com.

    Editors Note:

    Maps of the affected exchanges can be obtained by selecting Wisconsin Maps.