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Francis “Skip” Frantz is a self-proclaimed modest man from a modest business. Alltel Corp., a telecommunications provider based in Little Rock, Ark., is “not the largest company out there, our headquarters are not in a major city, and we [serve] a predominantly rural or second- and third-tier market,” says the general counsel and executive vice president. But nothing is modest about the in-house lawyer’s remuneration. Frantz’s 2001 cash compensation of $810,000 lands him in the middle of our list, at No. 58. It seems like a natural spot: His employer resides in the exact middle of the latest Fortune 500 rankings, with annual revenues of $7.6 billion. But Alltel’s modulated voice is rising above the din of rivals recently humbled by high debt and overbuilt networks. The fiscally conservative Alltel — which faces less competition in the rural markets that are its mainstay — more than doubled its free cash flow last year, and even increased its stock dividend for the 41st year in a row. Alltel hasn’t been immune to the sector’s woes. Even so, the bear market didn’t stop Frantz from cashing in 50,000 of his Alltel options, for a total of $1.45 million. He was the only one of Alltel’s senior officers to part with company holdings during the volatile market fluctuations of 2001. Yet Frantz shrugs off the move as merely a “methodical” exercise of his options. The GC, who joined the company in 1990, is the longest-tenured senior officer at Alltel. During a corporate reorganization in 2001, Frantz — who was already corporate secretary and head of business development and M&A — was rewarded with additional responsibilities for administration, communications, security and wireline strategy and wholesale services. Even while juggling all those roles, the 49-year-old still negotiates deals like Alltel’s pending acquisitions of CenturyTel Inc.’s wireless business, for $1.65 billion, and Verizon Communications’s domestic telephone operations in Kentucky, for $1.9 billion. But on his own, the practicing Roman Catholic and avid golfer doesn’t confess to any major splurges. “I like to be low-profile and live simply,” says Frantz. “It sounds kind of boring, but that’s OK. I don’t apologize for it.” Neither does Alltel.

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