Merger Maestro - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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For telephone customers from New York to Maine, the hit was direct and swift. In August 1997, they went to bed with NYNEX and woke up in the arms of Bell Atlantic. Almost overnight, the citified Baby Bell was neatly tucked beneath its country cousin’s wings in a $26 billion merger that made Bell Atlantic the nation’s second largest telecommunications company, behind AT&T.

Long term, that meant melding two different worlds. Short term, it meant a massive rebranding effort to get buy-in from discriminating Northerners. Within six weeks, tons of directories, thousands of buildings, 30,000 trucks, 100,000 pay phones and 28 million telephone bills were brandishing Bell Atlantic’s new logo.

New Yorkers, who once looked over to New Jersey in envy as pitchman James Earl Jones touted the virtues of Bell Atlantic, could now lay claim to his commanding voice. Customer service began to gleam in a land where, for so long, it had been lackluster. In just three weeks, consumer awareness of Bell Atlantic as the local phone company went’ from 4% to 79%, and all was well in Gotham, thanks to Bruce Gordon.

“It was a huge merger,” says Gordon. “We had different products, prices, brands and views of the market, and had to take a very detailed and organized approach. That meant having a strong customer marketing team and plan in place to make the Bell Atlantic name appear and the name NYNEX disappear.”

As the newly appointed Bell Atlantic group president for retail services–two steps away from the CEO-Gordon was handpicked to lead the merger integration team. Moving from Philadelphia to New York, he worked out his strategy from the 41st floor of what was once NYNEX headquarters near Times Square. His change strategy included everything from customized telephone services and targeted sales campaigns to catchy consumer advertising that uses children’s book author and cartoonist Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are characters. His innovations didn’t go unnoticed.

“Gordon has been contributing to the success of this business for some 30 years. He has always stepped forward with new ideas and never lacked the passion to see them through,” says Bell Atlantic Chairman Ray Smith. “Thanks to his initiative during the merger, we launched what I dare say is the most successful name change and brand campaign of any company in the country. He is a true friend and a valuable leader at Bell Atlantic.”

Even though the merger is complete, Gordon’s plate is still full. The 52-year-old holds the reins on all retail marketing for the $30 billion company’s consumer and business markets, which include some 24 million households and more than 2 million businesses.

Since 1968, when he joined Bell of Pennsylvania, he has scaled the corporate ladder with a dexterity only a select few have mastered. His proof-positive product management and customer service initiatives helped to keep that company buoyant after AT&T cut the cord in 1984. The success or failure of his marketing initiatives directly impacts the $18 billion in revenues of the company’s consumer and business markets.

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