Sprint CEO Admits Fed Probe

Sprint officials acknoledge they've begun a search to replace William Esrey as well as company president, Ronald LeMay.

In the latest in a string of questionable transactions among telecommunications executives, Sprint Corp. chairman and CEO, William Esrey, told company managers yesterday that he is under an audit by the Internal Revenue Service regarding his use of tax shelters and investments.

Earlier this week, Sprint began a search to replace Esrey as well as the companys president, Ronald LeMay. The Overland Park, Kansas company said Sunday that its directors were evaluating alternatives and had offered the CEO job to the vice chairman of BellSouth Corp., Gary Forsee. However, Sprint said, BellSouth won a temporary restraining order to prevent Forsee from working for a rival within 18 months after leaving BellSouth.

A Sprint spokesman confirmed that Esrey sent a letter Wednesday to top employees, informing them that the IRS was looking into his use of tax shelters and investments he made on the recommendations of Ernst & Young. If the audit resulted in a decision against him, it could eliminate his personal assets, Esrey told employees in the letter.

In November, Sprint announced that Esrey had been diagnosed with lymphoma and would begin chemotherapy, but that he would continue to handle all responsibilities as chairman and CEO.