FairPoint Communications (NYSE: FRP) is looking to replace its founder and chief executive officer, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The company acknowledged that Gene Johnson will retire at the end of 2009 and that it is preparing a succession plan.

"The enterprise has outgrown him," an “informed” source told The Journal.

FairPoint recently closed on a $2.3 billion deal to acquire Verizon Communications’ landline business in much of New England.

According to the Journal, FairPoint has encountered numerous problems in trying to absorb the Verizon business unit, which was much larger than FairPoint. FairPoint operates a number of small phone companies, but after the Verizon deal became the eighth-largest phone company in the country with 3,975 employees, 1.8 million access lines and $344.7 million in revenues, the Journal said.

Johnson was a co-founder of FairPoint in 1991 and took over as CEO in 2002.

In a statement issued early Thursday morning, FairPoint said no deadline had been set to replace Johnson.

"FairPoint Communications, Inc. today reports that its board of directors has reaffirmed Eugene B. Johnson’s standing as its chairman and chief executive officer, per his employment agreement, which was extended in April 2008, and is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2009," the company said.

"In anticipation of Mr. Johnson’s employment agreement expiring at the end of 2009 and Mr. Johnson’s expressed desire to retire next year, FairPoint’s board of directors is taking the necessary steps for succession planning, including forming a search committee and engaging an outside executive search firm. Mr. Johnson has indicated his desire to retire after the company successfully completes the systems transition of its newly acquired northern New England business and once a successor is in place.

"No deadline has been set for finding Mr. Johnson’s successor."