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AT&T names Dorman as next CEO

Dave Dorman, president of AT&T, will take the helm of the long-distance giant as soon as the company finishes the sale of its cable business to Comcast.

AT&T has named Dave Dorman, a long-time telecommunications executive who dabbled briefly in the dot-com world, as Ma Bell's next chief executive.

Dorman will take the helm of the long-distance giant as soon as the company finishes the sale of its cable business to Comcast, a transaction expected to be completed by the end of this year.

AT&T's current chief executive, C. Michael Armstrong, will lead the new cable company, to be called AT&T Comcast.

Dorman has been president of AT&T since December 2000, with oversight of the company's business and consumer networks, and long-distance service units. These operations will represent the bulk of the company once the cable division is sold.

"Dave Dorman has the vision, industry knowledge and customer focus to successfully lead AT&T," Donald McHenry, a Georgetown professor and chair of the governance committee for AT&T's board of directors, said in a statement. "While some in our industry are coping with accounting and governance issues, AT&T is completing an orderly succession that ensures all our energy is directed where it should be--on serving our customers better each day than the day before."

McHenry's statement only hints at the difficulties Dorman will encounter. Many of AT&T's most powerful competitors, including WorldCom and Qwest Communications International, are facing federal investigations for accounting questions and are fighting for survival.

But that hasn't changed the fact that the underlying telecommunications market remains weak and that AT&T, like its peers, is saddled with enormous debt. Dorman's task will be to find a way to rekindle profits in the stagnant long-distance telephone business and salvage a business out of the myriad investments made in data services and networks over the past five years.

Dorman himself is a quintessential telecommunications executive, but with a twist. He joined Sprint in 1981 and rose to be president of that company's business unit by 1990. In 1994 he took the top job at local phone giant Pacific Bell. But in late 1997, after Pacific Bell had been bought out by the larger SBC Communications, Dorman jumped to the dot-com world to head up PointCast.

But PointCast proved to be one of the first big Internet failures, crashing and burning publicly after being hyped as the leader of the "push" technology wave. Dorman helped bring the company close to a deal working as a technology provider to a high-speed Net initiative backed by big local phone companies, but the deal fell apart before launching, ultimately pulling down PointCast with it.

Dorman moved back to the telecommunications world in 1999 to take the head of Concert, a joint venture between AT&T and British Telecommunications. He was named president of AT&T in December 2000.

Industry insiders had painted him as the favorite to succeed Armstrong since then, and the company had said earlier this month that he was the "front runner" for the slot.