MCI's Capellas: A Superman or a Clark Kent?

Now that his company is being bought by Verizon, executive recruiters offer their thoughts on Capellas' likely next moves.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
3 min read
MCI chief Michael Capellas might be viewed a hot commodity now that his company's being bought by Verizon Communications. But experts say he isn't likely to be available for a new post any time soon.

Michael Capellas
president and CEO,

They also offer a broad, mostly flattering portrait of the man who's held the reins at Compaq Computer and occupied senior-level positions at SAP America and Oracle.

Some industry observers said Capellas may be tapped as Hewlett-Packard's next chief--but he'll likely be unavailable until the Verizon deal closes. And that transaction is expected to take a year to finalize, the telecommunications companies said.

"I would not be surprised if there were some explicit contractual agreement that holds him there until the deal closes," said Stephen Mader, vice chairman of executive search company Christian & Timbers.

Under such a contract, Capellas would also be precluded from making a commitment to join a new company at a future date, Mader said. For example, under that sort of agreement, Capellas would not be able to sign a contract with a prospective employer and agree to join that company in a year's time.

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"You can't commit to a deal like this and enter into a (CEO employment) agreement with another company. What if the merger runs into problems and doesn't happen?" Mader said.

Additionally, the board of directors at a prospective employer would not likely be interested in waiting around a year and leaving the company in limbo for the duration, Mader noted.

MCI and Verizon representatives were not immediately available to comment on the employment arrangements they have with Capellas.

A versatile executive
Executive search recruiters say that a number of Fortune 500 companies--from high-tech to consumer products companies--would be interested in Capellas.

"He has a reputation of being a good operating guy. He gets the i's dotted and t's crossed and keeps the train running," said Jon Holman, who heads up the Holman Group, an executive recruiting company based in San Francisco.

But companies seeking a strategic thinker and a "big ideas" chief executive, Holman said, will likely shy away from Capellas.

"He may be a Superman hiding inside a Clark Kent," Holman said. "But I think he's a Clark Kent hiding inside a Clark Kent."

Capellas, nonetheless, is likely a CEO who can work in any number of industries, executive recruiters said.

"He may be a Superman hiding inside a Clark Kent. But I think he's a Clark Kent hiding inside a Clark Kent."
--Jon Holman,
the Holman Group

He has a track record of working at struggling companies, fixing some of their ailments and then selling them off. He previously sold Compaq to HP, and now the former MCI (which used to be the bankrupt WorldCom) to Verizon.

"Capellas has not had a gargantuan home run as a CEO. But on the other hand, he has taken on two major corporate challenges and did fine for their shareholders," Mader said.

"He's a CEO whose experience can transcend the telecom and technology industries because he's run some pretty big businesses."