Broadband Boss Not Holding Door for Armstrong

It's hard to imagine how running AT&T Broadband could get more complicated.

Its hard to imagine how running AT&T Broadband could get more complicated.

With its parent company splitting into four competing parts, AT&T Broadband is operating in legal limbo, as courts and regulators sort out limits on AT&Ts share of the cable market. Meanwhile, AT&T Broadband Chief Executive Dan Somers must steer the worlds largest cable operator toward new frontiers in telephone and Internet services amid dire news from financial markets.

Despite all that, Somers made it clear last week that he wants to keep his job, even if his boss, Chairman C. Michael Armstrong, also reportedly has designs on running suburban Denver-based AT&T Broadband.

"Im glad he wants my job," Somers told reporters at a luncheon sponsored by industry consortium Cable Television Laboratories. "So do 400 other people. Im thrilled that a lot of folks want my job. But Im still here in Denver, and Ill be here as long as I and they want me here, and the rest is bullshit."

Somers also challenged assumptions that AT&T Broadband did not have a good year last year, noting that "in the last year and a half, we have been in an almost frantic effort to upgrade our network."

But if 2000 was a good year for AT&T Broadband, it wasnt reflected in Somers paycheck. When the performance bonuses were handed out, Somers check fell nearly 86 percent to $100,000, though his base salary climbed nearly 44 percent to $800,000.

If its any consolation, Armstrong took a 28 percent hit in the paycheck, as his bonus fell nearly 72 percent to $650,000. Still, with $3.1 million in compensation and millions of dollars more in stock, Armstrong likely wont have trouble paying the bills.

With shareholders on the warpath over AT&Ts stock drop, Armstrong must convince them to accept the breakup at the May 23 annual meeting.

When an appeals court earlier this month struck down a federal regulation that limited AT&Ts ownership of the cable market to 30 percent, the ruling had no major impact on AT&T Broadbands plans for the year, Somers said. But, with a final outcome still pending, the parent company has asked regulators to delay requirements that it shed its 25.5 percent stake in Time Warner Entertainment.

Somers also said AT&Ts broadband telephone service has reached "critical mass" with 500,000 customers. "Its a hard business," he said. "But its a hell of a good business."