cover image End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T

End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T

Leslie Cauley, . . Free Press, $26 (301pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-5025-2

There is much more fall than rise in this riveting account of AT&T's disastrous recent history from USA Today telecom reporter Cauley. While offering only a brief look at AT&T's long, iconic history, Cauley digs in with gusto near the end of Robert Allen's reign as CEO and chairman in the mid-1990s, when the company lost precious years as its long-distance cash cow began wasting away. Cauley is hitting on all cylinders by the time she reaches the heart of the book, the period after Allen was belatedly deposed and Michael Armstrong came to power. Armstrong latched onto cable as AT&T's lifeline to the future, a laudable vision that, the journalist makes mercilessly clear, was butchered in execution. As Armstrong's team overpaid for second-rate companies and bobbled the complex integration issues, the stock market implodes, taking with it the company's capacity to manage its debt load; the competitive pressures, along with WorldCom's massive fraud, destroyed the margins in long distance. Add it all up and you have what Cauley characterizes as a "perfect storm." Agent, Michael Carlisle. (Aug.)