AT&T Mobility Reshuffles Top Management - InformationWeek

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10/18/2007
10:01 AM
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AT&T Mobility Reshuffles Top Management

The ripple effects from a series of acquisitions lead to Stan Sigman, president and chief executive officer at AT&T Mobility, cleaning out his desk and heading to back Texas. The change underscores the uncertainty in the volatile telecom marketplace.

The ripple effects from a series of acquisitions lead to Stan Sigman, president and chief executive officer at AT&T Mobility, cleaning out his desk and heading to back Texas. The change underscores the uncertainty in the volatile telecom marketplace.SBC has grown significantly  and even changed its name -- during the past three years through a series of high profile acquisitions. Sigman helped to build Cingular, which SBC had a 60% stake in, into one of the nations top two wireless suppliers. In 2004, Cingular acquired AT&T Wireless, a company that had been spun off from AT&T at the turn of the millennium. In 2005, SBC bought AT&T, which at the time had become a shell of its former self, offering long distance (highly commoditized) services. SBC added BellSouth, which had the remaining 40% share in Cingular, to its repertoire in 2006. Along the way, SBC changed its name to AT&T as well as Cingulars moniker to AT&T Wireless.

As the head of AT&T Wireless, Sigman led some noteworthy initiatives. The acquisition of AT&T Wireless was a high stakes gamble, one predicated on the correct assumption that consolidation loomed in the wireless market, so size would be more important in the future. He also worked with Apples Steven Jobs so that AT&T became the exclusive carrier of Apples popular iPhone, a key differentiator in a market where differentiation is becoming harder and harder to find.

So, it was a bit of a surprise that Sigman, who is 60, decided to retire after 42 years at AT&T/SBC/Cingular/AT&T again. Perhaps, others pushed him out the door. His replacement Ralph de la Vega has been viewed as a rising star in the telecom marketplace. He had been mentioned as a possible savior for Sprint, which is on the lookout for a new CEO. de la Vega, who already has Sigmans job, was promoted from group president of the regional telecom and entertainment unit, after previously served as the chief operating officer for AT&T Wireless from 2004 to 2006. While de la Vega has a noteworthy reputation, the move represents a gamble by AT&T, which is replacing a seasoned veteran, whose latest moves have been quite successful.

The management changes underscore the volatile nature of the telecom market where mergers and acquisitions have been common. When an executive with a track record as sound as Sigmans is gets pushed to the side, it raises the question about whether anyones job in these companies is safe. Also, chances are the de la Vega will push AT&T Mobility in new directions. Can a medium and small business trust him to make the right decision? Time will tell, but the answer to that question is not as clear today as it was Sigman held the title of president and chief executive officer at AT&T Mobility.

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