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Unmasking Telecom's Unlikely Heroes

Channel Partners

November 1, 1999

25 Min Read
Unmasking Telecom's Unlikely Heroes

Posted: 11/1999



Unmasking Telecom’s Unlikely Heroes


The 30 Most Influential People in Competitive Long Distance

With no flowing capes or masked faces, these executives named in the following pages might be mistaken for ordinary guys. And for the most part, they are. But we’ve singled them out for this the third annual compilation of the most influential people in the competitive long distance industry. Those that have made the list did so for different reasons. We would not suggest that any are truly heroic merely on the basis of their influence on the current state of the industry or even for the leadership of their individual companies. (After all, it is their job, and one each is well compensated for it.) However, we would suggest that each has been given or cultivated a rare genius that makes them stand out as if wearing colored leotards and matching knee-high boots. There are those who have Superman-like invincibility–take our No. 1 pick, for example. And there are those who are reluctant defenders of telecom’s little guys against anti-competitive evil (Nos. 13, 16, 17 and 18). But, frankly, most of these mystery men can just shovel really well.

So put on your hard hats and thick skins and read on. If your hero didn’t make the cut, don’t fret. Tell ’em to buy something–another company, a publicist or, better yet, a gadget-filled utility belt.

1. Bernard J. Ebbers

Superpower: Perhaps the only list-maker known by his first name only, “Bernie” may be the closest thing to celebrity in the long distance industry. His audacity continues to astound and amaze colleagues who watch in disbelief as he pulls off one mega deal after another–his most recent a pending merger with Sprint Corp., which may be the biggest U.S. corporate combination ever and would unite the No. 2 and No. 3 long distance companies in the world. One analyst likened his deal-making proclivity to a hobby wherein he is collecting telecom assets the way others collect cars or priceless paintings.

Years ago he predicted that a little long distance company like his LDDS would buy up an MCI or Sprint. Now it seems he got both. The ink barely dry on approvals for his acquisition of MCI, Bernie has done it again and, if all goes well, he also will secure the one thing that has so far eluded his company–a lucrative wireless business. To get to this point, however, there have been hundreds of mergers and acquisitions along the way, including IDB WorldCom and WilTel.

When three-fourths of all large deals miss financial targets, Bernie continues to deliver even when analysts have poo-poohed his latest deal. His is the best performing stock in communications.

Alter-egos: President and CEO, MCI WorldCom Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Ebbers may have learned a thing or two about offensive strategies from his stint as a high-school basketball coach.

2. Robert Annunziata

Superpower: Before this former CEO of Teleport Communications Group Inc. and head of the business services unit of AT&T Corp. took the helm of Global Crossing in January, the company was just an undersea cable provider selling capacity to wholesale customers. Now Global Crossing is fresh from its acquisition of Frontier Corp., and is geared to be as super as a supercarrier can be, thanks to Frontier’s extensive terrestrial U.S. network, which handles its 13-state local exchange carrier (LEC) business and its long distance business; its GlobalCenter Internet arm, which is comprised of Frontier’s Internet service provider (ISP) and Internet-hosting business; and Global Crossing’s own in-progress undersea cable network that, when finished, practically will circumlocate the globe.

Alter-egos: CEO and Director of Global Crossing Ltd.

When the Cape Comes Off: Though he may not be diving deep to lay Global Crossing’s cable, Mr. Annunziata feels right at home close to water, choosing to spend summers alongside a lake in New England.

3. Joseph Nacchio

Superpower: The irrepressible Mr. Nacchio outdid himself this year, ensuring his company made headlines by partnering with everyone and his brother to beef up Qwest’s service portfolio, with a particular focus on applications hosting. His company’s biggest move was a sneak counterattack on Annunziata and Co. when Global Crossing made a play for Frontier and US WEST Inc. Qwest walked away with US WEST, and why that’s a good thing still baffles many. But Mr. Nacchio remains nonplussed, plowing ahead with his company’s bankbook fattened by the $4 billion in revenue US WEST rakes in each year.

Alter-egos: Chairman and CEO, Qwest Communications International Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Nacchio may be an industry old hat, but he’s certainly not a luddite–he’s an avid cybersurfer and gets his financial and industry news from a few favorite websites: www.bloomberg.com, www.marketwatch.com and www.redherring.com.

4. C. Michael Armstrong

Superpower: When AT&T’s board of directors selected C. Michael Armstrong to lead the company in 1997, the company was the industry’s Old Gray Lady. Today, AT&T is still big and can be cumbersome, but since Mr. Armstrong took over, it has streamlined its business strategies, acquiring the nation’s largest independent competitive local exchange company, Teleport Communications Group Inc.., as a vehicle to offer local service to businesses and embarking on a brash strategy of acquiring cable companies as its local-service entry to consumers.

While Armstrong’s attentions at home have been in re-creating the former Bell System it once owned, he also has teamed up with U.K. powerhouse British Telecom to create a global venture that’s a shoe-in as the world’s pre-eminent supercarrier.

Alter-egos: Chairman and CEO, AT&T Corp.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Armstrong is not one to be underestimated. His favorite aphorism is, “Assume nothing.”

5. William Esrey

Superpower: Mr. Esrey truly deserves the term “well-heeled” veteran. Since becoming CEO of Sprint in 1985, he’s been a constant at the No. 3 long distance company, steering it through the growing pains of deregulation and technological revolution while other companies’ executive positions were revolving doors.

The result of much of Esrey’s efforts at the moment, however, is Sprint’s Integrated On-Demand Network (ION) network. While it’s still very much a work in progress, it seems to steer a unique technological course between AT&T Corp.’s cable modem local strategy and MCI WorldCom Inc.’s mix of technologies aimed at businesses.

He also had the foresight to diversify Sprint’s portfolio into wireless technologies, making the communications company a most attractive acquisition target. A bidding war for the prize between BellSouth and MCI WorldCom just ended with the No. 2 long distance company the victor.

Alter-egos: Chairman and CEO, Sprint Corp.

When the Cape Comes Off: A truly mobile worker, Mr. Esrey was on horseback “in Colorado, in the middle of nowhere,” when he first discussed with Bernie Ebbers Sprint’s merger with MCI WorldCom, using a cell phone.

6. Paolo Guidi

Superpower: The world may not be Paolo Guidi’s oyster, but a considerable chunk of it certainly is his responsibility. TCC is responsible for the international operations of its parent company, Teleglobe Inc., Montreal. On Mr. Guidi’s watch, TCC has become the second-largest provider of international Internet access in the world, with 100 carrier customers in the United States alone.

It was as president of Telenet Communications Corp. that Guidi first made his mark on long distance communications, pioneering the commercial application of packet-switching technology. Now, his sights are set on building GlobeSystem, which TCC says will be “the world’s first globally integrated Internet, voice, data and video network,” and will increase the company’s network capacity 200 times.

Alter-egos: President and CEO, Teleglobe Communications Corp. (TCC)

When the Cape Comes Off: Guidi can give Austin Powers a run for his money as an international man of mystery. Born in Italy, he received his higher education in Argentina and has held various positions in Latin America, Asia and Europe as a manager with GTE Corp.

7. Joseph P. Clayton

Superpower: Mr. Clayton, a Texan, admits he didn’t migrate to Rochester, N.Y., and its merciless winters for the weather. Instead he’s spent the past to years adding needed focus to Frontier Corp.’s considerable assets.

Coming to Frontier from the consumer electronics business, replacing a much-loved CEO who had just died, Mr. Clayton had his job cut out for him at Frontier. Despite that, he narrowed and sharpened the company’s focus, directed key acquisitions–including GlobalCenter, the web-hosting company–set up a venture capital fund and managed, at last, to get Frontier acquired by Global Crossing for $11.2 billion.

Alter-egos: Former President and CEO of Frontier Corp., vice chairman, Global Crossing Ltd.

When the Cape Comes Off: Even the hyper-capable Mr. Clayton is not afraid to admit that some things are beyond his ken. (e.g., Qwest’s proposal to acquire both US WEST and Frontier). “They didn’t teach us this in business school,” Clayton says.

8. James Crowe

Superpower: Mr. Crowe has parlayed his success as the chairman and CEO of MFS Communications into this pure-play IP-based network venture. When Mr. Crowe talks, analysts listen. Where Mr. Crowe goes, money follows.

The company is busy laying, buying and leasing fiber for its network domestically and in Europe. The company reports that it is on track to release its voice over IP services this fall.

Despite his vision and pedigree, don’t go looking for Crowe in the big corner office. His is the same size as everyone else’s in his company by design. Not surrounded by self-aggrandizing accoutrements of the executive suite, Crowe hopes to engage employees in a dialogue unfettered by layers of management.

Alter-egos: President and CEO, Level 3 Communications Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Not surprisingly, this trailblazer is an avid collector of nonfiction books, pictures and artifacts documenting the adventures of the world’s great explorers.

9. Howard Janzen

Superpower: Under Janzen’s leadership, Williams has reprised the strategies of its predecessor, WilTel, with a next-generation twist, deploying a brand new packet-switched network based on asynchronous transfer mode (ATM). It seeks to be the wholesale carrier of choice and vows to remain a purist. This summer the company launched its switched voice services and is expected to offer dedicated Internet access by this month.

As of Oct. 1 Williams Communications Group Inc., a Williams subsidiary, went public, pricing its initial public offering (IPO) at $23 per share on the New York Stock Exchange. The $681 million offering, which constitutes 7 percent of the common stock outstanding, is only part of a $3.3 billion financing effort, which is puported to be funding the completion of Williams’ 33,000 route mile fiber optic network in the United States.

Alter-egos: President and CEO, Williams Communications

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Janzen may seem grounded, but he’s often got his head in the clouds–quite literally. He logs 250 hours a year piloting his own Mooney aircraft.

10. Paget Alves

Superpower: Although always unassuming and understated, Alves managed to galvanize the wholesale efforts for Sprint, implementing a comprehensive customer service program and launching a portfolio of wholesale services. Joining Sprint Wholesale in August 1996 as vice president and general manager of Reseller Services, he was promoted less than 18 months later to be the unit’s president. His successes in building the company’s wholesale efforts were noteworthy enough to land Alves a prime position as one of two presidents that now head the reorganized Sprint Business. One result of having this reseller-friendly guy at the top is that the company soon will be making its retail portfolio available for resale.

Alter-egos: President-Sales and Sales Support, Sprint Business

When the Cape Comes Off: This fitness buff was recently paired with golf prodigy Tiger Woods at the Sprint International Pro-Am in Castle Rock, Colo. How’d he do? No one in his office seems to have the skinny on his score.

11. John Barnett Jr.

Superpower: Having joined then WorldCom after a more than a decade with carrier’s carrier WilTel, this former ACTA board member has been a primary lobbyist for wholesale services with his boss, Bernie Ebbers (see #1). With substantial experience in global business development for both WilTel and WorldCom, the hard-nosed Barnett also is responsible for MCI WorldCom’s wholesale services in international markets, where the company is said to be taking no prisoners.

Alter-egos: President, Wholesale Services Division, MCI WorldCom Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Barnett likes to take to the golf course with sales teams and customers, but duck if you run into him. He’s more a Gerald Ford on the greens than a Jack Nicklaus. When asked by his executive secretary how he did on the course after an outing, Mr. Barnett always answers evasively, “I had a very nice time.”

12. Anthony Cassara

Superpower: Frontier’s first-quarter wholesale revenue this year grew more than 36 percent over last year, and that has everything to do with Mr. Cassara. Carrier services is big business at Frontier–about 30 percent of its overall business. Aside from its already-thriving voice business, this year Frontier introduced data resale in 120 markets throughout the United States, and Ready, Set, Connect!, a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc., which provides carriers with transport and training and equipment from Cisco.

But its home country is only the tip of the iceberg for Frontier’s wholesale services. Now that the carrier has merged with Global Crossing, the boundaries seems limitless.

Alter-egos: President of Carrier Services and President of Frontier U.K., Frontier Communications

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Cassara can appreciate big things in small packages. He’s a gadgethead with an electronic organizer the size of a credit card, a cell phone he can cradle in his palm and the smallest PC on the market.

J. Sherman Henderson III

Superpower: The three-time chairman of the Telecommunications Resellers Association (TRA), Henderson is responsible for many firsts in the reseller community. His was the first company to offer equity to agents–its primary sales force. His was the first company to sign a $480 million carrier agreement (with WilTel in 1995). And his was the first company to sign a custom local resale agreement with Bell Atlantic earlier this year.

A dyed-in-the-wool salesperson, Henderson’s gregarious and tenacious nature is both part of his charm and the secret to his successes. At a recent conference he explains in his signature Southern style that to get suppliers to do what you want you have to “raise hell just about 24 hours a day.”

Alter-ego: President, UniDial Communications

When the Cape Comes Off: With a penchant for costumery, Henderson frequently dresses up for corporate events. On the firm’s fifth anniversary, he flipped burgers in hat and apron from Denny’s Restaurant, the place where UniDial was born, sketched by its founders on a napkin.

14. David Greenblatt

Superpower: For David Greenblatt, convergence is no piece of press release flackery. He expresses it in his person: An Internet guy working for a company that is both an Internet and phone company, trying to convince people that the Internet is making distance and many other things irrelevant.

In the two years since Mr. Greenblatt came to Net2Phone, it has, he says, begun to teach the world that Internet telephony is an opportunity, and not merely a curiosity. The mantra at Net2phone is “voice-enable the web.”

Apparently Wall Street agrees. After spinning off from parent IDT Corp., Net2phone in July had a successful IPO of 5.4 million shares of Common Stock at a price of $15 per share. The price skyrocketed to $92-5/8 and now is hovering in the mid-$50s.

Alter-ego: Chief Operating Officer, Net2Phone Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Greenblatt has nine Internet-ready kids armed with Net2phone accounts, so they can surf and call simultaneously.

15. Richard Ellenberger

Superpower: Ellenberger makes a high debut on our list based in large part on his company’s pending acquisition of IXC Communications and its fiber network Gemini 2000, the nation’s first giga-speed Internet backbone.

Always one to set high expectations for himself and his employees, Ellenberger took the reins at Cincinnati Bell in 1997 with the intent to take the company into the next century as an integrated communications provider. To jumpstart his master plan, he has launched two new divisions focused on network solutions and wireless services. With financial, back-office and management strength in the bag, Cincinnati Bell was lacking the capabilities and reach of a nationwide IP network that IXC brings to the table.

Alter-egos: President & CEO, Cincinnati Bell Inc./IXC Communications Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Nonplussed by those inaccessible by wireless phone, Ellenberger’s favorite high-tech toy is his Nokia 6160 phone. He also is keen on hand-held wireless computer devices that allow access to the Internet and information on a real-time basis anytime, anywhere.

16. Jerry James

Alter-egos: Executive Vice President of Thrifty Call Inc. and Golden Harbor Inc., and Chairman of the Board for CompTel

Superpower: Mr. James was a driving force of this year’s merger of ACTA and CompTel, and as chairman of the board for the combined association, he works to ensure competitors are getting their fair shake. Just ask SBC Communications Inc., which has been bearing the brunt of Mr. James’ obsessive drive for fair competition in Texas for years.

Now that his baby Thrifty Call has a nice niche as a long distance reseller, this Ford pickup-driving Texan has refocused his energies into another line of business: turning Thrifty Call’s subsidiary Golden Harbor into a full-fledged facilities-based competitive LEC (CLEC). You can bet Mr. James’ collection of cowboy boots that he’ll be successful.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. James has put down his hunting rifle for a much more philanthropic endeavor. He owns and operates a Christian youth and ministry retreat in a national park area of Colorado.

17. Ernest B. Kelly

Superpower: Kelly has had the somewhat daunting task of trying to rein in the swelling twister that is the TRA organization. Since he was named to lead the resellers’ group in 1994, he has been in charge of managing its growth from 400 members to more than 750 today. In addition, he has guided it from serving resellers of long distance (domestic, international and prepaid) to those that now sell the gamut of network services–local, data and Internet as well as long distance.

Today, Kelly manages a staff of 10, recently adding a new director to focus only on resale of advanced services–his latest campaign. Along with his staff, Kelly advocates for resellers of all types and develops programs to educate them on changing technology and regulation. Together, they host the industry’s only rock’n’roll convention. The jokes, however, he comes up with on his own.

Alter-ego: President, Telecommunications Resellers Association

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Kelly likes to rock and roll. He has a jukebox and more than 3,000 45rpm records. He learned to play guitar when he was 14 and still strums the strings regularly.

18. H. Russell Frisby Jr.

Superpower: This family man has been lending his lawyer’s expertise toward the regulatory struggle for competition since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. Since his appointment at CompTel a year-and-a-half ago, Mr. Frisby has been a steadfast leader, going to bat in 1999 to help competitors gain access to unbundled network elements (UNEs) and speaking out strongly to block Bell entry into long distance until they have met the 14-point competitive checklist for Section 271 entry. He also was instrumental in forming the Competitive Broadband Coalition, which aims to enable competitors to provide advanced services integral to their survival in an increasingly data-centric market.

Alter-ego: President, Competitive Telecommunications Association

When the Cape Comes Off: Here’s lookin’ at you, Russell. With a favorite movie such as “Casablanca,” it’s apparent this hard-nosed lawyer is really a romantic at heart.

19. Jere Thompson

Superpower: Jere Thompson is one of those rare CEOs who actually did bet everything he had on an idea, and has stuck around to see the idea pay off.

Mr. Thompson founded CapRock Fiber Network in 1992 to offer the necessary connectivity to carriers and businesses in Texas, using optical fiber. The merit of such a strategy was not apparent to everyone, and Thompson had lots of trouble getting it funded.

Eventually he talked to the Central and South West Corp., Dallas, an energy company interested in finding an alternative to its microwave network, and convinced them that fiber was the answer. Soon, Caprock’s network will traverse six states.

Alter egos: President and CEO, CapRock Communications Corp.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr.Thompson used to be an investment banker. That is until he saw a demo of video on demand in 1989 and decided that broadband services were the wave of the future and he would try to figure out a way to deliver them. Needless to say, he quit his day job.

20. Andrew Walker

Superpower: Andrew Walker–he answers to Drew–has seen a little bit of everything in telecommunications. He’s been involved in satellite communications (he ran the modulation and transmission group at Comsat Laboratories), headed up technology development at the Christian Broadcasting Network, and been the main wholesalesman at MCI WorldCom Inc.

Like CapRock and several other regional players, Walker’s ITC^DeltaCom, headquartered in West Point, Ga., provides integrated communications services, including long distance, in a limited footprint. In ITC^DeltaCom’s case, the footprint is the southeastern United States, where 70 percent of the originating calls also terminate in the region.

Alter-ego: Vice Chairman and CEO, ITC^DeltaCom Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Walker has all the charm his thick southern accent belies, but he’s also a tough talker. At a recent CompTel conference, he spoke candidly to his dinner companions of his company’s consistent head-butting with SBC Communications Inc.

21. Joe Basile

Superpower: GST Communications was a distracted company when Mr. Basile became its boss last fall.

Basile led the team that developed a new strategy for the company, built around its core business of providing integrated services over its own facilities. Geographically, Basile has focused GST for now on the West Coast and Southwest, cutting loose the Guam operation and announcing GST’s intention to sell its Hawaiian operation, submarine cable and all. Regional long distance has become an important part of the company’s integrated product mix, as well as wholesale and dark fiber, and the company is in the process of building out its fiber optic network to make room for such businesses.

Alter-egos: President and CEO, GST Telecommunications Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Associates say Basile is proud of having led GST along the road from competitive access provider, to CLEC, to integrated communications provider (ICP) without a major misstep.

22. R. Michael Newkirk

Superpower: S-s-s-s-ssh! Mr. Newkirk, and BTI, are in the dreaded (by reporters, anyway) Quiet Period, following BTI’s registration for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. Mr. Newkirk has worked for BTI since 1986, which, in competitive telecommunications, makes him something of an Ancient Mariner.

In his time, and largely under his leadership, BTI has metamorphosed from a long distance reseller to a CLEC to a regional long distance provider in the southeastern United States. BTI, which has about 75,000 local access lines, has also laid down 1,100 route miles of fiber, and expects to have 3,900 deployed by the end of 2001, along with 19 local and five long distance switches.

Mr. Newkirk is alive to the needs of his industry. For example, he is a founder of the Associated Communications Companies of America (ACCA), an 11-member club that buys transport for its members at reduced costs. Mr. Newkirk also is a board member of the Competitive Telecommunications Association (CompTel).

Alter-egos: President and Chief Operating Officer, BTI Telecom Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Newkirk is a serious deep-sea fisherman.

23. J. Shelby Bryan

Superpower: J. Shelby Bryan, a lawyer and serial entrepreneur, was among the leaders of CLECs who bought ISPs in the past year. ICG Communications Inc. bought Netcom Inc., then sold its consumer dial-up service (and 400,000 dial-up customers) to Mindspring Inc. ICG has kept the national Internet backbone, and offers long distance as part of its integrated service.

Alter-egos: Chairman and CEO, ICG Communications Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Mr. Bryan is not one to mince words. To those who wondered why his company bought Netcom only to sell its customers to Mindspring, Mr. Bryan replied, “We just wanted the damn network.”

24. Bob Hale Sr. and Rob Hale

Superpower: This dynamic duo has turned a family affair into nearly a billion-dollar enterprise. While Hale Senior has been the mouthpiece of the group as a founding member and chairman of the board of the Telecommunications Resellers Association (TRA) for two years, and board member for seven, Hale Junior has been busy growing the Quincy, Mass.-based communications company. Begun as an AT&T Corp. reseller in 1990, Network Plus is now a facilities-based CLEC building mirror networks in the Northeast and Southeast. Most recently, Network Plus announced that it will be deploying DSL services in its territory.

The company went public in June with a flare, raisng $147.2 million.

Alter-egos: Chairman of the Board and CEO, President and Director, respectively, Network Plus Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: Rob Hale likes to swim with manatees in Florida, with all proceeds of the outing going to protect these endangered marine animals. A good way to meet Bob Hale is to tee off at a TRA golf tournament, even though you probably won’t find “the weekend golfer” in the winner’s circle.

25. S. Paul Sanhu and Eric Clemons

Superpower: GTC Telecom is a reseller with the heart of a facilities-based carrier. With their nickel-a-minute all-day, everyday long distance plan, as well as a burgeoning Internet services arm offering FreeNet, a free Internet access service, they’re going head to head with the Big Three (now the Big Two).

Mr. Sanhu and Mr. Clemons are the brains (and founders) of this organization. Rumor has it their taking the long distance market by storm is simply a decoy from their grand scheme: throwing the switch on a nationwide voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) network.

Alter-egos: President/CEO and Chief Operating Officer of GTC Telecom, respectively

When the Cape Comes Off: While Mr. Clemons might be seen wheelin’ and dealin’ at the Baccharat tables in Vegas, Mr. Sanhu, a true techie, would rather tinker away at his PC or catch a sci-fi flick.

26. David C. Ruberg

Superpower: Since Mr. Ruberg joined Intermedia in 1993, the company has gone public, become a CLEC and a long distance carrier, acquired an ISP–Digex Inc., Beltsville, Md.–with a national backbone and premier web-hosting business, and taken that ISP public.

Intermedia, which had annual revenues of $7 million when it went public in 1992, took in $218 million in the second quarter of 1999 alone. The stock price, bumping along in the $5 range when Mr. Ruberg joined the company, has had its ups and downs since. This year, the stock went down to $12 3/4 early this year, and then rebounded to $39 1/2 before settling in the $20 range. Digex, which went public in July at $17, was trading near $30 in late September.

Alter-egos: Chairman, President, and CEO of Intermedia Communications Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: He is a piano player and unregenerate Trekkie who appreciates the series both in its original form and the next generation.

27. Tom Evslin

Superpower: Mr. Evslin’s a computer guy from way back, doing server administration for Microsoft Corp. in the early ’90s and launching AT&T Corp.’s Internet service provider (ISP), WorldNet. It’s no wonder, then, that the company he founded in July 1997 approaches communications from a next-gen standpoint, offering voice and fax services to carriers and resellers worldwide by exploiting the ubiquity and efficiencies of the Internet.

Alter-egos: Founder, Chairman and CEO, ITXC Corp.

When the Cape Comes Off: Ever the technocrat, this Harvard grad designed and wrote the first electronic transfer of funds programs that ran in the biggest U.S. banks.

28. Frank Scardino

Superpower: Mr. Scardino has put Atlas on the map not just in the United States as a growing player in the retail and wholesale long distance and debit card markets, but also abroad. Atlas has three international gateways and a growing international resale program. Atlas is set to leverage its prepaid distribution network for a prepaid cellular launch. And, it is building collocation facilities for its carrier customers as well as investing in back-office and provisioning systems to help them enter new markets.

Alter-ego: Vice Chairman, Atlas Communications

When the Cape Comes Off: A connoisseur of fine food and expensive cigars, Mr. Scardino also eats peanuts with the shell on.

29. Allen J. Portnoy

Superpower: This year saw the flat-rate long distance provider acquire a competitor, Total Communications Plus Inc., Easton, Md., and its 10-city voice over IP (VoIP) network; complete the first phase of its own nationwide VoIP network with a New York super point of presence (POP); and plan an expansion its VoIP service into South Korea and the United Kingdom with the help of overseas companies.

Alter-egos: CEO and Chairman of USATalks.com Inc.

When the Cape Comes Off: No stranger to transformation, Mr. Portnoy once evolved a maker of custom screws into a maker of engine parts.

30. Gene Foster

Superpower: Mr. Foster is shaking things up by tendering a new proposition that suggests value lies not only in a company’s network facilities and customer base, but in its distribution channel. He is the primary architect and salesperson for a plan to find a buyer for a reseller (Telecorp., Hewlett, N.J.) based in large part on the power of its agent base–20 of the nation’s largest agents. No announcements yet, but Mr. Foster says he’s had a warm reception from not just one, but several carriers trying to amass market share in the ultracompetitive voice anddata services market.

Alter-ego: President, Communication Management Services

When the Cape Comes Off: In his younger years, Mr. Foster was a competitive motorcross biker, a hobby his son has now taken up.

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