Only weeks before AT&T; Corp. sells a portion of its wireless business in what could be the
largest U.S. initial public offering ever, the president of the
unit has quit AT&T; to head a West Coast Internet start-up.
Dan Hesse, 46, will take over as president and chief
executive officer of Seattle-based TeraBeam Networks Inc, which
is developing a novel wireless data technology that uses laser
beams for the high-speed transmission of large chunks of data.
Meanwhile AT&T;, the No. 1 U.S. long distance telephone
company, is moving quickly to replace Hesse by naming the
wireless unit's chief financial officer, Mohan Gyani, as
president and chief executive of AT&T; Wireless Services.
In naming Hesse as its new chief, TeraBeam said it expects
the 23-year AT&T; veteran to take on the task of building its
technology into a force in the market for high-speed
Privately held TeraBeam, which claims to have been operating
in "stealth mode for the past 30 months," makes its official
debut on Monday at a tradeshow in Scottsdale, Ariz., the company
said in a statement.
Hesse's departure from AT&T; is no surprise. It had been
rumored persistently since December, when he was passed over for
the top job at AT&T; Wireless Group, parent of the wireless
services unit. AT&T; President John Zeglis got that job instead.
Hesse, considered an influential player in the wireless
communications business, joins a growing list of top executives
to have left Ma Bell in the past two years since C. Michael
Armstrong became chairman and chief executive of AT&T;, which is
also the top U.S. cable television company.
"AT&T; is losing top talent faster than I can keep track
of," industry analyst Jeffrey Kagan, of Kagan Associates, said.
"This is obviously a big blow, but not totally unexpected. When
the top spot in wireless was given to Zeglis instead of Hesse,
many industry watchers knew it was just a matter of time."
Hesse's leaving also comes just weeks before AT&T; is
prepared to sell up to 20 percent of its wireless business in a
deal that could fetch $8 billion to $10 billion, which would
trump the $5.47 billion debut of United Parcel Service Inc.
(UPS.N) last November as the largest U.S. IPO ever.
It now falls to Gyani, 48, to fill Hesse's role as head of
AT&T;'s domestic wireless voice and data operations, the nation's
"It will be hard to fill Dan's shoes," Kagan said.
Gyani is a recent hire who came to AT&T; from AirTouch
Communications, where he had been CFO until Britain's Vodafone
bought AirTouch, forming Vodafone AirTouch Plc.
AT&T; said Gyani's will focus will be expanding AT&T;'s
wireless footprint nationally, particularly in the data arena.
AT&T; shares were off 5/16 at 52-5/8 in late morning trading
Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.