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Capellas: WorldCom a "unique" chance

The former HP executive says despite WorldCom's "troubles," he's excited about taking charge. It might even prove easier than the HP proxy fight, he said.

Although Michael Capellas knows he's accepted a big challenge at WorldCom, the former Hewlett-Packard executive said the task ahead could prove easier than the contentious HP-Compaq merger.

"In a lot of ways, I think the (merger) proxy fight will end up being harder," Capellas told CNET during a telephone interview Friday.

Capellas announced Monday that he was leaving his job as president at HP, six months after the company completed its acquisition of Compaq Computer. At Compaq, Capellas had risen from technology chief to chief executive.

On Friday, WorldCom named Capellas as its new CEO. The executive noted that he's already spent time with the company's creditors, who will become WorldCom's owners if Capellas can complete a restructuring of the company.

"These are very reasonable people who have a common goal," he said.

However, Capellas acknowledged there are significant challenges as he assumes the helm of a company that has admitted improperly booking some $9 billion in profits in one of the largest accounting irregularities ever.

"Obviously they've got some trouble," he said.

But the challenge is part of what attracted Capellas to the job. "I do think it is a fabulous and unique opportunity...Everybody really wants to make a difference, to make a contribution."

The first task, he said, will be a road show with WorldCom employees at various company locations. Capellas said he wants "to make sure people see me, get a sense for my personality."

At the same time, Capellas will try to meet with key customers. "A lot of the customers I will know," he said.

Although he is new to a bankruptcy situation, Capellas said he is not new to the process of reorganizing sales forces, restoring accountability and instilling more disciplined financial management--all key tasks ahead of him with WorldCom.