Four weeks earlier than expected, Liberty Media boss John Malone announced
his resignation Tuesday from AT&T Corp.’s board of directors.
Malone, scheduled to leave the board Aug. 10, said he was leaving because
of a conflict of interest dealing with Comcast’s recent hostile takeover bid,
according to a resignation letter acquired by Reuters.
C. Michael Armstrong, AT&T chairman and chief executive officer, said he
understood Malone’s decision and wished him the best.
“John Malone is a unique figure in American business history and we have
been fortunate to have the benefit of his insight and vision,” Armstrong said.
Since it’s likely the next four weeks (at least) will be spent dealing with
Comcast’s attempt to acquire AT&T Broadband, it’s unlikely any AT&T board
members will give much notice to Malone’s departure.
In fact, the announcement likely came as a surprise to many who thought
Malone would just sit out his last four weeks on the sidelines. Greg
Braden, AT&T Broadband executive vice president of broadband services and
chief technology officer, speaking at the Internet World Chicago 2001, made
no mention of Malone’s departure in a keynote speech he gave to attendees.
Malone has been trying to leave the AT&T fold for months now, culminating
in his bid to separate Liberty Media from AT&T, which wasn’t possible until
the Internal Revenue Service signed off on the company’s departure.
AT&T gained Liberty Media Corp. through its acquisition of
Tele-Communications Inc., in March 1999. The buyout helped Ma Bell add to
its cable network footprint, making it the largest cable operator in the
nation. Malone wanted out of AT&T from the start, but there is a two-year
statute of limits if you will on merger deals, so that companies don’t merge
only to separate again to avoid certain federal taxes.