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Managing Editor

Top down

Dec 09, 20032 mins

* Surprise move at AT&T

In a surprise move, AT&T President Betsy Bernard resigned suddenly last week to “pursue other opportunities” amid declining sales in the carrier’s business and residential services businesses.

AT&T immediately named her replacement (what, no transition period or executive search? Oh, it was already underway while Bernard was still there…): William Hannigan, chairman and CEO of travel industry services company Sabre Holdings, and a 16-year telecom veteran.

 “At this stage we have no reason to believe that the departure is performance related, other than the fact that  managing a business with declining revenues and undergoing consequent downsizing is presumably not as enjoyable as some other alternatives,” said Merrill Lynch analyst Adam Quinton in a research report.

Bernard spent nearly two decades working in various positions at AT&T before leaving the company for several years in the late 1990s. She rejoined in 2001 as head of AT&T’s consumer services unit and was promoted in late 2002 as the company underwent a series of organizational changes, including the sale of AT&T Broadband and the appointment of a new chairman and CEO, David Dorman.

“She has aspirations to run her own business as a CEO,” an AT&T spokesman said.

And she wants it NOW, apparently. No time to waste in climbing the career ladder.

Hannigan will assume Bernard’s responsibilities for running AT&T Business, the carrier’s largest unit. In 2002, AT&T Business had revenue of $26.6 billion, down 4% from the previous year.

Before joining Sabre Holdings in 1999, Hannigan held executive positions at SBC Communications, Pacific Bell and Sprint.

Hannigan says he and Dorman, a Sabre board member, began talks a few weeks ago on the AT&T job. Priority 1 is to flatten the decline in AT&T’s business services before growing the top line and aggressively going after market share.

“Besides any individual issues that may have prompted Ms. Bernard’s departure, we think Dave Dorman has decided to bring in a senior executive with greater experience in the business services arena – clearly the future of AT&T given the dramatic rate of contraction of AT&T Consumer revenues (20% per year over the 2000-2003 period),” Merrill Lynch’s Quinton says.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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