By Quintina NaimeDuke of York Islands group is 45 minutes by boat from Kokopo and offer sport diving, snorkelling and picnics under the coconut trees.The Relay team along with the Games mascot Tura Kokomo received a traditional welcome from singsing groups and students. The baton relayed along Molot Island and dropped in at two smaller islands. These beautiful islands are undeveloped but are easily visited.The lagoons around this historical group of islands provide all-weather canoeing, wind surfing and water skiing.The baton then headed off to the Beehives in Simpso’s harbour where a youth jumped off with the baton.The relay then travelled to Kokopo for a relay around the township.
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAN ANTONIO — Edward Whitacre Jr., the blunt-talking Texan who led AT&T Inc.’s growth from the smallest of the Baby Bells into the nation’s largest telecommunications company, announced Friday he will retire as chairman and chief executive in June. He’ll be replaced in both roles on June 3 by Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson, 47. “I’ve always considered it my main priority to ensure the long-term viability of the company,” said Whitacre at the annual shareholders meeting, where he unexpectedly announced his retirement. “I have great confidence in the next generation of leadership.” Stephenson, who has been the chief operating officer since 2004, rose through the ranks of AT&T and its predecessors. Formerly the chief financial officer, Stephenson is credited with overseeing the company’s drive to reduce debt, which allowed it to make an aggressive string of acquisitions, most recently the $86 billion purchase of BellSouth. Whitacre, 65, had another year on his contract, but Patrick Comack, an analyst for Zachary Investment Research, said Whitacre’s decision to leave sends him out on top. “He built AT&T into a juggernaut,” said Comack, who is often critical of AT&T because of the ongoing competition it faces from cable television. “He’s highly respected on Wall Street, a straight shooter.” In Whitacre’s 17 years at the helm, he presided over the company’s growth from a regional telephone provider to the nation’s largest provider of wireless, broadband and traditional phone service. Recently, some shareholders and advocacy groups have criticized how much Whitacre earns, however. He’ll collect more than $161.6 million, including $73.8 million in deferred compensation and the $84.7 million in his pension fund in his retirement package. He’ll also make more than $1 million per year for three years as a consultant for the company, according to AT&T’s proxy statement. During that time, his benefits will continue and he’ll get some tax help, including the payment of about $15,600 in taxes per year. But with the stock trading at a five-year high, three shareholder-driven initiatives to limit compensation and pension funds for AT&T executives failed shareholder votes Friday. “I’m not sure anyone is worth that kind of money, but if anybody is going to get it, at least he did his job,” Comack said of Whitacre. Because of recent successes, the board approved a 6.2 percent increase in monthly benefits for AT&T’s oldest and poorest retirees. Roughly 88,000 former employees who retired before 1996 and receive less than $1,200 per month will get the increase starting in October, Whitacre announced Friday. AT&T, formerly named Southwestern Bell and then SBC Communications, was the smallest of the seven “Baby Bells” spun off in the 1984 government-ordered breakup of the national AT&T monopoly. Under Whitacre, who began at Southwestern Bell in 1963 as a facility engineer, the company acquired three of its larger Bell siblings, as well as its former corporate parent, the AT&T long-distance business created in the breakup, and renamed itself AT&T in the process. The acquisition of BellSouth gave AT&T full ownership of Cingular Wireless, which had been a joint venture and is the nation’s largest wireless carrier with 62 million subscribers. The selection of Stephenson, who began with Southwestern Bell in 1982, was not a surprise. Whitacre is known to be loyal to his team, with many of the management changes being internal promotions. David Dorman, the chief executive of the acquired AT&T long distance business, had wanted to be designated the heir apparent and resigned when it was clear Stephenson would likely get the nod, Comack said. AT&T’s stock dipped on the news of Whitacre’s departure, falling 32 cents to close at $38.64 in trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.