Merger Maestro

Bruce Gordon answers the call for Bell Atlantic by helping to build one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies

Gordon said in his speech. “There are 130 African Americans in power positions across this country helping to run this company.”

Of the 90 senior-level executives at Bell Atlantic, only 10 are African American. Gordon is striving for more. “We’ve made substantial progress and Bell Atlantic can be proud and vigilant. But there should be 230 African Americans in power positions.” To that end, last September, Gordon held a summit of those 130 Bell Atlantic black managers and executives to discover ways to increase the number of African Americans in the new company. He is also a true friend and mentor to many African American employees at Bell Atlantic.

But that’s not all Gordon’s passionate about. He’s apt to spend an evening listening to Coltrane, the Temptations or Pavarotti. He favors reading the morning paper each day while riding to work on the New York subway rather than in the back of a limo. Divorced, Gordon has made his 21-year-old son, Taurin, a senior at Hampton University in Virginia, his No. 1 priority. He finds time to sit on the boards of the Southern Co. and Bartech Personnel Services, is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, and has served as director of the Philadelphia Urban League and chairman of the United Negro College Fund Telethon. Even in the midst of this whirlwind, the changing telecom landscape and Bell Atlantic’s future sit heavily on his mind.

As Bell Atlantic grows, so does the competition. Already, the company faces tough opposition in its local cellular and data markets. The passage of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 has set out the rules for increasing competition and opening up local phone company lines to competitors in return for locals getting into the $80 billion long-distance market. That means that Bell Atlantic may soon compete with MCI and the possible mega-merged entity of AT&T and Tele-Communications Inc. for both local and long-distance customers.

“Bell Atlantic has Maine to Virginia under its belt, and that can’t be taken from it,” says Philip Wohl, telecommunications analyst at Standard & Poors in New York. “But in order to be competitive, they will have to bundle long-distance, Internet access, local and their crown jewel, wireless service, to drive growth.” Other industry watchers seem to agree. “Bell Atlantic is in a good position, but they have to defend their turf if they want to continue to hold a large percentage of the overall market,” says Zia Daniell, an analyst with Jupiter Communications in New York. “That share is going to be eaten away by competitors if they don’t advance their services.”

With 41 million telephone access lines, 6 million wireless customers worldwide and 25% of the U.S. market, Bell Atlantic need not worry about being gobbled up. The company also has sound foreign investments and $10 billion in cash flow each year–adequate resources to expand the business and its customer base.

“We’ve reached an agreement with the Public Service Commission that is now supporting our entry into the long-distance market,” says Gordon.

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