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AT&T Tabs New President

AT&T Tuesday named Betsy Bernard president-elect of the company, part of a series of organizational changes announced by chairman and CEO-elect David Dorman.

Bernard will become president of AT&T when the company completes the spin-off of AT&T Broadband and its subsequent merger with Comcast.

Bernard, who re-joined AT&T 17 months ago as head of its AT&T Consumer long-distance unit, will be charged among other things, with leading AT&T Business, valued at nearly $27 billion.

"Bernard has a lot of experience in the industry working with USWest and Qwest and I have been impressed with her ability to grasp the challenges and opportunities facing ATT," said Jeff Kagan, a telecom industry analyst. "Dorman and Bernard seem to 'get it' when it comes to taking AT&T into the future."

The president-elect will also assume responsibility for the company's network services group, international ventures and AT&T Labs, the research arm of the company, which has produced seven noble prize recipients, and continues to churn out patents at a rate of approximately two a day.

Dorman said Bernard will immediately head up AT&T Business. Following the close of the Comcast deal, expected before the year's end, Bernard will officially assume the role of president of what will likely be a very different looking AT&T from that of the one operating in the 1990s, with a renewed focus on phone and data services and consumer local and long-distance service.

"ATT's strength is that they have more than 50 million customers, and they all send a check every month," said Kagan. "That's a strong cash flow position and a strong foundation of customers to offer new services to. As long as AT&T is able to transform from the long distance company of yesterday to the any distance, voice, data and broadband company of tomorrow they have a very bright future."

At that time, Dorman will become chairman and CEO of AT&T, and current chairman, C. Michael Armstrong, will leave to become chairman of AT&T Comcast.

The soon-to-be-formed AT&T Comcast, for its part, has been making headlines this week, with news of Excite@Home commencing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in a San Francisco court, agreeing to sell its broadband Internet business, @home, to AT&T, its largest investor, for $307 million. AT&T confirmed that it had entered into a confidential agreement with Comcast in hopes of finalizing the merger pact.

The newly appointed president-elect began her career at AT&T, where she held a variety of management positions in sales, marketing and operations over the course of 18 years.

Bernard went on to become vice president, Business Market Group at Pacific Telesis, and later, president and CEO of its long distance subsidiary, Pacific Bell Communications.

From 1997 to 1998, she served as president and CEO of Avirnex Communications Group, and then joined US West as executive vice president of retail markets.

Following US West's merger with Qwest, Bernard became executive vice president, National Mass Markets, before returning to AT&T in 2001.

Replacing the promoted Bernard in her position as president and CEO of AT&T consumer, Dorman named John Polumbo, currently senior vice president-AT&T Business.

Polumbo, like Bernard, will report directly to Dorman as part of the company's Operations Group that will lead AT&T once the Broadband spin is completed.

Polumbo, whose telecom experience includes heading the consumer unit at Pacific Bell, led major innovations in the areas of bundling, diversity marketing and loyalty programs. He expressed enthusiasm for returning to the consumer marketplace as head of AT&T Consumer.