Back to the Future

WorldCom -- er, MCI tries for a clean slate with a new finance chief, restructuring specialist Robert Blakely.
Lisa YoonApril 15, 2003

No doubt executives of fallen telecom giant WorldCom have wished certain recent events had never happened. That’s wishful thinking, of course, but they can attempt to start over with a new name and a new finance chief. Hence, the appointment of restructuring specialist Robert Blakely as CFO of MCI, formerly WorldCom.

MCI, of course, is the name of the long-distance company that WorldCom acquired in 1998 for $40 billion. The deal helped make WorldCom the number 2 long-distance carrier in the U.S.

Blakely is also a familiar face as a turnaround artist, best known for his work as finance chief of Tenneco. He helped streamline that unwieldy, debt-laden conglomerate through spin-offs, debt-restructuring, and asset sales.

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At the time, the former Morgan Stanley banker credited his knowledge of capital markets as coming in handy for the Tenneco restructuring. It was a big task, and in a CFO Magazine article he said he exercised as one way to stay sane through the process. “You’ve got to prepare physically, because the environment and the mental stress will tear you apart if you don’t,” the former collegiate rower told CFO.

The magazine reported that Blakely jogged, swam, and worked out with free weights during the reorganization ordeal.

Blakely is not only known for his financial discipline but also as a credible leader who can bring together constituencies as disparate as banks, rating agencies, and shareholders.

Blakely’s last job was as CFO of Lyondell Chemical Co. He retired in June 2002.

WorldCom also announced a restructuring plan that has reportedly been approved by most of the company’s creditors. As part of the plan, the struggling telco’s debt was slashed from a staggering $41 billion to around $5 billion.

Butte Leaving CSFB

Amy Butte is reportedly quitting as chief strategist and CFO of Credit Suisse First Boston’s financial services division. According to reports in the New York Post, the former Bear Stearns analyst is in the process of hammering out the final details of her departure.

In her newly created strategy role at CSFB, Butte was responsible for helping oversee the firm’s asset management, securities clearing, and brokerage services for wealthy individuals, under division head Jeffrey Peek. But with CSFB’s decision earlier this year to sell the Pershing clearing business, Butte’s responsibilities were cut dramatically.

Butte, who joined the one year ago under CEO John Mack, was instrumental in the company’s diversity efforts, according to the Post.

Mack, who took the helm at CSFB in 2001, was on a concerted program to promoted women executives. He oversaw a number of female and minority appointments within the firm. He also established a global women’s steering committee, made up of female managing directors, to write policy and procedure, develop internal communication networks, and to reach out to women clients.

Mack even set up golf clinics for his female execs, thinking they might feel intimidated by the male-dominated sport.

Butte, considered one of the relatively rare female stars on Wall Street, was a big part of those initiatives. She led a women’s networking group and was and advisor on a diversity committee.

The Post reports that CSFB management, including Mack personally, tried to get her to stay — to no avail.