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Mandl's (No) Messiah

Plus, Colin Reed cashes in his chips at Harrah's Entertainment; Jeffrey Boyer joins the leagues of Kmart shoppers; Michael Irwin's slick moves; and more.
CFO Staff, CFO Magazine
June 1, 2001

MANDL'S (NO) MESSIAH

Alex Mandl knows what it's like to be a king and a commoner-- unfortunately, in that order. On April 30, the onetime heir-apparent to Robert Allen's corner office at AT&T Corp. resigned his position as CEO of financially troubled telecom-provider Teligent Inc. just as Newark, N.J.-based IDT Corp. acquired the 33.7 percent stake of the company owned by Liberty Media Corp. IDT installed its own CEO, Yoav Krill, managing director of its European division.

In 1996, Mandl, then an AT&T president, stunned the business world by defecting to start-up Associated Communications LLC, later renamed Teligent Inc. "At the time, it was a shot heard around the world," says J.P. Morgan H&Q analyst David Glaymon. "Seasoned execs of large telecom companies saw the opportunity provided by the Telecom Act of 1996, and were willing to move from market-share givers to market-share takers."

In the end, Teligent couldn't take enough market share to satisfy investors, explains Glaymon, who says Mandl's resignation was no surprise. "The sentiment among the different pools of capital was that only a finite number of companies were going to be supported, and the markets were closed to smaller companies," he says. Teligent struggled to find new funding while its stock price plunged from a high of $97 in March 2000 to 62 cents this May, forcing the company to petition Nasdaq not to delist it.

Teligent spokeswoman Tina Thompson says Mandl's departure was by "mutual agreement" between Mandl and IDT. She confirmed Teligent forgave a $15 million loan Mandl received when he joined the company.

ROLL OF THE DICE

Colin Reed is cashing in his chips at Las Vegas­based Harrah's Entertainment Inc. Reed has resigned the CFO position at the casino operator, and will join Gaylord Entertainment Co., which owns the Grand Ole Opry. Harrah's has appointed treasurer Charles Atwood to serve as CFO.

Former EVP and CFO Larry Kellner, 42, has secured a first- class seat in the corporate office of Continental Airlines Inc. Kellner is replacing Greg Brenneman as president of the Newark, N.J.-based airline. Brenneman announced his resignation in early May.

Jeffrey Boyer is joining the leagues of Kmart shoppers. Boyer, formerly SVP and CFO of Sears, Roebuck & Co., is assuming the EVP and CFO roles at Kmart Corp., headquartered in Troy, Mich. He replaces Martin Welch, who is retiring from the clothing retailer.

THE SECRET'S OUT

Intimate Brands Inc., of Columbus, Ohio, let it slip that Tracey Thomas Travis is the new CFO of Victoria's Secret lingerie stores' parent. Travis had served as finance chief of Rexam Beverage Can Americas. She replaces Michael Newman, who left last year.

Joe McCabe is wired to the corporate office of Redmond, Wash.- based AT&T Wireless. McCabe, who was recently named EVP and finance chief, has been acting CFO at the wireless arm of AT&T Corp. for the past year.

Some slick moves by Michael Irwin may have landed him in the CFO spot at WD-40 Co., which operates out of San Diego. Irwin, 37, takes over from Tom Tranchina, who is now VP­strategic integration for the maker of lubricants and other consumer products.

COVERT OPERATION

It appears Hal Covert has served Silicon Graphics Inc. well. Covert, 54, CFO of the maker of computer servers and workstations since July 2000, was recently named president. He also continues as finance chief at the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm.

David Meek is no longer bedding down at household-textiles manufacturer WestPoint Stevens Inc. Meek, 46, resigned in order to pursue "opportunities in the private sector." The company is currently seeking his replacement.

Cognos Inc., located in Ottawa, lost its main CFO component, Donnie Moore, who is retiring from the business-software firm. The newly named chief corporate officer, Robert Ashe, assumes Moore's duties while Cognos searches for a successor.

It's not child's play for Alison May, who's adding the acting CFO role to her duties at children's-apparel retailer Gymboree Corp. May, still COO, succeeds the resigning Larry Meyer at the Burlingame, Calif.-based company.

CAREER STRATEGY? 
Fired or Resigned?

Only 12 months after Deborah Hopkins moved across the country to become CFO of Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent Technologies Inc., the company announced her departure. "Now that Lucent's restructuring program and the required financing are in place, it's the natural time for me to leave and pursue other opportunities," she said in a prepared statement.

Some say Hopkins, 46, was a victim of Lucent's accounting problems and crashing stock price and earnings. Others say she was fired for misinterpreting the company's sales forecasts. Some say she left to cut her losses.


"What really happened, as I see it, is she wanted to be CEO-- she had made this clear--and then she realized she wasn't going to get the job," says Ariane Mahler, a senior telecom- equipment analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, which downgraded Lucent on the news. Former Lucent CEO Richard McGinn was ousted six months after Hopkins joined, and interim CEO Henry Schacht wants a new CFO with both financial and technical expertise, says Mahler.

Such quick--and often puzzling--moves have become a Hopkins hallmark in her quest to become a CEO. In 1995, she tired of waiting for the top spot at Unisys Corp., and took the general-auditor position at General Motors Corp. In 1998, she hopped to Boeing for 16 months before deciding the "passion and energy" of Lucent was too good to pass up.




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