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AT&T&#039s cable chief departs

AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) said Wednesday that Leo J. Hindery Jr., president and chief executive officer of its cable television business unit, is resigning to "pursue other interests." Hindery will continue as a strategic advisor to AT&T chief C. Michael Armstrong on cable issues, acquisitions, clustering and industry relations.

The resignation comes at a critical point for AT&T as it is working to roll out cable telephony and other services. AT&T said its plans to roll out broadband services are on target. The company is also trying to detail its broadband strategy, integrate numerous acquisitions such as Media One (NYSE: UMG) and figure out what to do with its stake in Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM).

As head of AT&T Broadband & Internet Services (ABIS), Hindery was an early advocate for rolling out AT&T's cable plans.

"Leo Hindery's vision, energy and determination helped shape the future of the new AT&T in a remarkably short period of time," said Armstrong in a company statement.

That vision doesn't always concur with AT&T's, however - and may have had something to do with his departure.

This August, what was supposed to be a speech about competition in the broadband industry turned into a diatribe against the threat to the Internet posed by porn and hate Web sites. Hindery suddenly switched the topic of his keynote at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Cyberspace and the American Dream conference.

And that wasn't the first time Hindery took heat for remarks about Internet content. In March 1998, as an executive at TCI (later bought by AT&T), he criticized the Jennicam site -- drawing an angry response from Jenni herself.

Just as Leo Hindery became Internet/broadband president in March, reporting solely to Michael Armstrong, The Wall Street Journal reported that bad blood between Tele-Communications Inc. alum Hindery and reputed nemesis John Zeglis - who was to have been Hindery's boss - was made worse by Hindery's discovery of an AT&T-commissioned background report on him. Hindery also believed a New York Times article on him which blasted Hindery's story of a miserable childhood. The Times story may have been helped along by AT&T sources, though the author, Geraldine Fabrikant, denied AT&T's assistance.

There was no conflict in the AT&T press release. In a statement, Hindery called his presidency at AT&T's cable unit the greatest honor of his life. "I shall miss the cable industry and especially the employees of ABIS, whose friendships I cherish," he also said in the release.

Armstrong said the company's plans to roll out new broadband services remain on target, including cable telephony pilots in 8 cities by the end of the year.

Until Hindery's successor is named, Amos Hostetter, non-executive chairman of ABIS and a member of the AT&T Board of Directors, will be working on AT&T's broadband strategy, staffing and industry relations. Daniel E. Somers, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of AT&T, will assume responsibility for the operational leadership of ABIS.