David Dorman on AT&T's Future

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," February 1, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: One day after announcing their $16 billion merger, telecom giants SBC and AT&T talking up their deal with analysts in New York.

Not long ago, the idea of someone buying AT&T seemed unthinkable, let alone a child of Ma Bell doing it. So what does it all mean for ATT's legacy.

Let us ask David Dorman. David is the chairman and CEO of AT&T who joins me in the only live exclusive interview you'll find with this gentleman.

Good to have you. Congratulations.


CAVUTO: I was saying the other day, you know, when we were talking about this, that I can remember 1984 covering the AT&T breakup and the child has bought the parent, essentially. Right?

DORMAN: Well, the world changed in '84 and then changed again in '96 with the telecom act. And obviously, AT&T has gone through transformations, buying and spinning off NCR, spinning off Lucent, AT&T Broadband and AT&T Wireless. We changed quite a bit in the last 20 years.

CAVUTO: All right. But do you have any feeling that echoed in some of the press that AT&T is gone?

DORMAN: Well, I think if you listened to Ed Whittaker's words the last three days...

CAVUTO: Your counterpart at SBC.

DORMAN: He fully understands that AT&T is be a American icon. He said to our employees in a broadcast, welcome home. He considers this a relative coming back. In many ways, it's like a family feud that's gone on for awhile and has been settled amicably.

CAVUTO: All right. But people still remember the great AT&T, the $60-plus stock of the $70-80 billion company, dwarfed now today, a far cry from that today. So what's going to be left of AT&T tomorrow?

DORMAN: Well, I think if you look at the business now, as I said the last time I was on your show, the enterprise business, which is our service set to large customers, $20 billion in revenue, is the jewel that SBC, I think coveted.

CAVUTO: Yes. That's what they're really interested in.

DORMAN: It's an unduplicated franchise.

CAVUTO: Although you still have, what, 24 million residential customers?

DORMAN: Twenty-four million long distance only customers in a world where people buy wireless, they buy video, they buy high-speed data and they buy local services in addition to long distance.

CAVUTO: So, is it likely that -- given a choice between AT&T, or SBC -- they keep the AT&T name?

DORMAN: I'll leave that announcement to Mr. Whittaker.

CAVUTO: They're going to keep it. People know AT&T better than SBC, right?

DORMAN: Well, certainly, from a brand recognition point of view, no question, AT&T is a global brand and it's a storied brand.

CAVUTO: Still, now, we're getting off the wire services, you guys together are going to be cutting at least 13,000 jobs. How does this all shake out?

DORMAN: Well, I think again, the synergy number we talked about is the duplication, the outright duplication between SBC, ramping up to get into the enterprise business. And what they say at the analyst conference today was they have a significant number of people beginning to be deployed to be in the enterprise business, but not a lot of revenue.

CAVUTO: Where will the headquarters be when all of this is out?

DORMAN: The headquarters will be in San Antonio.

CAVUTO: All right. So will you move to San Antonio?

DORMAN: That's the plan.

CAVUTO: OK. So how do you feel about that and all the people who, at least in the AT&T part of the business, will have to start getting the Texas accent?

DORMAN: Well, you know, I'm from Georgia, so I can lapse into it pretty easily.

CAVUTO: You're not all that far.

DORMAN: The fact is in 1996, I was president and CEO of Pac Bell.

CAVUTO: You sold to Whittaker.

DORMAN: That was SBC's first acquisition. So you know, in the Whittaker's 10-year run here, hopefully, I'll be the bookend of that on both sides.

But I moved to San Antonio for about six or eight months. It was in the middle of the Internet boom. And I left to go run Pointcast.

CAVUTO: Yes, I remember that, Dave. Let me ask you this. That, I guess, given the political environment today, I doubt a straight answer from you, even though I know you're an honorable guy. But do you think in retrospect the breakup of AT&T was a mistake?

DORMAN: I think given the choices, AT&T's CEO at the time, Charlie Brown, had a choice, to spin off Western Electric and Lucent to settle a lawsuit. That's what the government offered.

CAVUTO: Right.

DORMAN: He turned it down and suggested an offer that they spin off the Bell companies. Now, in retrospect, there's no question had AT&T kept the Bell companies and spun off Lucent, which it did anyway, 12 years later, we'd have a different world today>

CAVUTO: Yes, but I always wonder about anything by government edict, whether it's the deregulation of the airlines, which is supposed to spawn all this competition and help everybody. Now, you know, all these airlines are coming together again.

We thought the same in your business. Now all these telecom concerns are coming together again. Should the government sort of just shut its yap and stayed out?

DORMAN: Well, you know what happens. You've got businesses that have regulated basis. Profits are high. They deregulate or become competitive. Profits come out and the scale advantages are dissipated. So they recombine again. And I think that's what happened in the airlines and in the communications.

CAVUTO: All right. Best of luck re-familiarizing yourself with southern accents. David, good seeing you again. I wish you well.

David Dorman, ATT chairman and CEO, the man who helped orchestrate this huge deal with SBC.

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