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Tellme taps telecom exec as new CEO

Tellme Networks, one of the more successful start-ups trying to bring Internet-like services to the telephone, hires a new chief executive.

Tellme Networks, one of the more successful start-ups trying to bring Internet-like services to the telephone, has hired a new chief executive.

The new CEO, Cincinnati Bell veteran John LaMacchia, will join founder and Netscape Communications veteran Mike McCue at the top of the company, a spokeswoman said. McCue will become president and chief operating officer.

Formed initially as a "voice portal," where consumers could dial in to get sports scores, news headlines, traffic information, restaurant pointers and other Net-like information read to them by a human-sounding computer voice, the company has evolved in the last year to focus more heavily on telecommunications customers who want voice-recognition services inside their networks.

In discussing the company's executive search several months ago, the 34-year-old McCue said he wanted to find a new CEO who could help take the company to a new stage. McCue had run smaller companies and was a vice president at Netscape but had never run a large and growing company he said.

LaMacchia comes to Tellme after a long history in the telecommunications industry, including a stint as CEO of Cincinnati Bell from 1993 to 1999, and 17 years at AT&T. He will be focusing on the telecommunications side of the business, while McCue turns his attention more to the Internet side, the company said.

"Part of the way we looked at it was (as a way) to expand our telecom presence inside the company as we bring the telephone and the Internet together," said Marci Gottlieb, a company spokeswoman.

The company's biggest deals in the last year have been with AT&T, which also invested $60 million in the company last year. Despite being relatively cash-rich for a start-up with only a short track record, it has gone through two rounds of layoffs this year.

The start-up also added Rick Roscitt, former CEO of AT&T Business Services, to its board of directors.