RealTime IT News

AT&T Distances Itself From @Home

AT&T , hoping to put some distance between itself and its potential acquisition, announced Wednesday the removal of four of its six directors from Excite@Home's executive board, including AT&T chief C. Michael Armstrong.

Joining Armstrong at the exit door are Frank Ianna, Charles H. Noski and Daniel E. Somers. Mufit Cinali and John Petrillo will remain on the board to keep a minority presence in the company.

Other board members are: Patti Hart, @Home president and chief executive officer; William Hearst, one of @Home's original venture capital partners; Edward Rogers of Rogers Communications in Canada; and Matthew Hart (no relation to Patti), executive vice president and chief financial officer of Hilton Hotels.

The decision to vacate the board comes only days after @Home shareholders and bondholders voiced their objections over Ma Bell's Sept. 28 decision to buy up the company and its operations on the cheap for $307 million.

Investors are outraged that the largest broadband provider in the U.S., with debts in excess of $750 million, is getting sold off at bargain basement pricing. The company announced its Chapter 11 filing on the same day as the announced AT&T bid.

Bondholders and shareholders alike have hired law firms to force @Home and AT&T to bump up the asking price for the company. As it stands, both parties will get nothing in the event of a sell off at $307 million.

Their best hope is a larger bid price to get pennies on the dollar for their initial investment, a tough proposition. No other parties have stepped in to buy up the failing ISP. That has to do, in large part, to the fact that @Home doesn't own the cable infrastructure. A new owner would have to strike a deal with the cable owners to provide broadband access.

Stephanie Xavier, @Home spokesperson, said the ISP's policy is not to comment on any litigation pending.

@Home, the largest broadband Internet service provider (ISP) in the U.S., with more than 3.3 million cable Internet subscribers, is a joint venture between AT&T, Comcast and Cox Communications. All three have been trying to divest themselves of the company to pursue their own ISP options, with varying degrees of success.

@Home was delisted by Nasdaq Oct. 22 and now trades on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board, considered the last step before dissolution.