Notebaert, 59, will remain in his role until the board of directors can replace him. The company said it is actively working to fill his job, though it did not offer a timetable for the search. Qwest said it has no plans to change its strategy or operations as a result of Notebaert's retirement.
Notebaert has been chairman and CEO of the telecommunications giant since June 2002. He helped guide the troubled company in 2006 to its first-ever year of operational profitability.
"The time has come for me to spend more time with family and focus on other commitments," Notebaert said in a statement.
When Notebaert took the helm
Before taking the top job at Qwest, Notebaert briefly served as president and CEO of Tellabs, a communications equipment provider. Prior to that, he spent 30 years with phone company Ameritech. He served as CEO of that company from 1994 to 1999. He announced his retirement from Ameritech in October 1999, three days after the company was sold to SBC Communications (now AT&T) for more than $70 billion.
When Notebaert was named CEO of Qwest, a number of Wall Street watchers speculated that he would help broker a big merger. But over the past couple of years, Qwest has remained the only Baby Bell that has not merged with any other large company.
Last year, Verizon gobbled up long-distance provider MCI. SBC merged with AT&T. And less than a year later, the newly named AT&T bought BellSouth. Qwest has actively.
But Notebaert sided with other phone company executives, such as former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre, bythat would provide guaranteed bandwidth to certain services running over the Qwest network.