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Excite@Home faces a change of Hart

Patti Hart, reportedly the future CEO of the high-speed Internet provider, is rumored to be disgruntled at the job she hasn't even taken yet.

I like my psychiatrist, even if his former clients call him a quack. Something keeps me going back to Dr. Helmut Fraeme-Relais, and recently I found out what: Innuenda, the experimental antidepressant the doctor prescribed me, turns out to be severely addictive.

It also has powerful side effects. Within months of starting my treatment with Innuenda, I became disgruntled--clinically disgruntled. Fraeme-Relais checked me into the psych ward, where I was made to play Postal Worker Paintball until the symptoms subsided.

I'm not the only one who may be suffering from a change in attitude. Patti Hart, the former CEO of Telocity and reportedly future CEO of Excite@Home, is rumored to be disgruntled at the job she hasn't even taken yet.

Hart, whose impending stewardship of Excite@Home The Wall Street Journal reported this week, is rumored to be livid after Excite@Home's Tuesday-morning announcement of a massive profit warning for the first quarter. The company, whose chief, George Bell, has been slated since September to step down, said it will miss estimates not only for the quarter but for the rest of the year. In addition, Excite@Home is in a cash crunch and needs more money to stay afloat.

Late last winter, Hart--who also worked for Sprint--was one of three candidates interviewed by the full board of directors for Excite@Home, said a Skinformant familiar with the process.

"She was the lead candidate because of her experience and her ability to run a DSL company," the source said. "She was also a good friend of (Dave) Dorman, who also had worked at Sprint. He had some influence."

Dorman, once CEO of the disaster-prone PointCast Network, was recently promoted to president of AT&T, which is the majority shareholder in Excite@Home.

Excite@Home's Bell confirmed Tuesday that the company has talked to Hart.

Skinformants say the profit warning hit Hart like a ton of coiled TV cable. She had not, the rumor goes, been informed of the severity of the situation during her interview process. So now the Excite@Home CEO search committee may be facing a change of Hart.

"She just feels like she was baited and switched," our Skinformant said.

And things were going so well! Skinside information has it that before Excite@Home dropped its earnings dot-bombshell Monday night, Patti was negotiating a buyout package--a prenuptial Golden Parachute--that would take the edge off being disgruntled, in my opinion. So maybe she'll still take the job.

Patti's not talking, at least not to us. And neither is Excite@Home, which declined to comment on rumors. Now imagine if I had that kind of attitude.

Tirade against TechTV
There's at least this to be said about being disgruntled these days: You've got plenty of company. Not a day goes by that the high-tech world doesn't get a few thousand newly embittered souls who are expressing their grievances in new and creative ways. Take Joshua Green, until recently an employee of Paul Allen's TechTV. After being laid off with a dozen other Web site employees last week, Green posted a little love letter to his erstwhile employer in the form of a "Top Ten list on why TechTV will likely be out of money by this time next year."

The nifty thing about Green's parting shot was that the ex-staffer managed to post it directly to the TechTV Web site.

"He still had access to e-mail and to his account," a TechTV flack ruefully explained. "It wasn't entirely shut down--an oversight on our part. We were made aware of it pretty quickly and were able to take it off the site. Obviously it was someone who wasn't too happy about being laid off."

Actually, the Top Ten list makes it sound as if the disgruntled Green hadn't been too happy about being employed. Not since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door have we witnessed such a withering blast of disgruntlement!

Obtained by the Rumor Mill before TechTV managed to pull it, the post starts off hurling invective at executives and managers. It then launches into his 10 reasons, accusing the company (in terms more inflammatory than the Rumor Mill's lawyers like us to quote verbatim) of excessive ambition, poor and indecisive management, questionable intellectual prowess, and self-defeating management of its human resources.

"Damn right I'm talking about me," Green carps in relation to that last complaint.

But Green had had enough of talking about himself, or his former employer, by the time the Rumor Mill caught up with him. He refused to comment.

However harsh his rhetoric, Green reveals himself to be a perspicacious critic of TechTV. Who can argue, for example, with this item on his list?:

"8. Target audience doesn't exist. TechTV wants to become the destination channel for all those sophisticated technology professionals and financial market guys who are watching TV in their cubes. Um, yeah. Here's the big problem. Those guys don't EXIST, because the only people who have TVs in their cubes are TechTV employees. The financial guys are all tuned in to Bloomberg and CNBC. To believe that these guys would turn away from these channels...is not just laughable, it's pathetic."

"Bigtime" Accenture send-up
Green seems to want to put being disgruntled behind him. But others have managed to make careers for themselves out of the condition. James Sanchez, for example, took out his aggressions against his former employer, then Andersen Consulting, in the trenchant cartoon series "Bigtime Consulting."

When Andersen changed its name to Accenture, "Bigtime Consulting" became "Indenture.ac." The copy beat the original by a matter of days when Sanchez got wind of Andersen's switch before it became public.

Once a labor of love, the cartoon now has a sponsorship deal under which Sanchez gets paid to draw a certain number of cartoons for Darwin Partners, a services staffing firm.

Sanchez--who says he nearly got thrown out of the Air Force Academy for publishing an off-color cartoon--penned the partly autobiographical "Bigtime Consulting" strip on the sly while still an Andersen employee. But then a "so-called friend" ratted him out.

At that point, he says, he was nearly fired, but a well-placed fan of the strip saved his job. He left anyway, continuing the cartoon with information funneled to him by friends still employed at Accenture, and by an expanding fan base of rumor-mongering staffers who continue to send him tips.

Those fans have become such a wellspring of scuttlebutt about Accenture that reporters can be found trolling the "Indenture Fan Mail" page for dirt.

Rumors which, by the way, are widespread not only on dot-com deadpools but within the company itself. Layoff rumors have been flying for months, even while the company has been hiring aggressively.

"It's all intrinsically related," says one Skinsider familiar with the rumors. Noting the recent news of an impending IPO, this Skinsider said, "We have to look good, trim here, fill out there."

An Accenture flack said there are "no layoffs going on" and "the rumors are false." But the flack did acknowledge that annual performance reviews could result in letting go of some employees based on skills and performance. Meanwhile, aggressively hired newcomers total about 17,000 to date for the year.

Whatever happens, Accenture employees will undoubtedly continue to turn to Indenture.ac for news and commentary. Sanchez, now the IT manager of a manufacturing firm he declines to name ("I've learned something by now about pissing off your employer") will be keeping his ear to the ground along with his former co-workers, reading his own fan mail and keeping up with postings elsewhere on the Web.

"There are different boards I check," Sanchez said. "Vault.com is one. Apparently every Accenture employee spends an hour a day posting on Vault.com."

Green posted his tirade; Sanchez posted his cartoon--why can't the eLance readers of the Rumor Mill get a break? Reports have trickled in that eLancers who attempt to post the URL to this column on the eLance discussion boards find their posting automatically altered to expunge the offending Web address. Disgruntled eLancers may resort to paintball.

Here in San Francisco, dot-commers who are disgruntled enough at least have career options. A handwritten sign at Marcello's, a veteran pizzeria at 420 Castro St., features the following sign in the window:

APPLY TODAY
NIGHT TIME CASHIER
DAY TIME CASHIER
FLEXIBLE, MOTIVATED
DOT-COMMERS WELCOME :-) Help me earn some extra pizza money--send me your rumors.