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AT&T Chairman Sees Tenure as a Success

Preview / WEEK OF JULY 8-14

July 08, 2002|Reuters

Despite some missteps and retrenchments, AT&T Corp. Chairman C. Michael Armstrong will declare victory this week after battling for more than four years to lead the telephone company through an industry boom and bust that has claimed several rivals as casualties.

Armstrong , who became chairman in October 1997, shifted 125-year-old AT&T away from its shrinking long-distance telephone business, giving once-dowdy "Ma Bell" a chance at a future with high-speed data and Internet services.

But he did not realize his vision of turning AT&T, the No. 1 U.S. long-distance telephone and cable television company, into a one-stop shop for voice, data and video services. After several acquisitions, the company decided to split itself up.

He must acknowledge at his final shareholders meeting Wednesday in Charleston, S.C., that AT&T shares have fallen about 70% during his tenure, underperforming the Standard & Poor's 500 index by about 70%.

Shareholders at the annual meeting will vote on the planned $27-billion sale of the AT&T Broadband cable television unit to Comcast Corp., creation of a tracking stock for the AT&T Consumer unit, and a one-for-five reverse split of AT&T's common stock.

Armstrong will leave AT&T to become chairman of the combined AT&T Comcast when the sale of the Broadband unit closes later this year.

AT&T's remaining business will provide telephone and data services to about 50 million residential customers and 4 million corporate customers.

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