Former AT&T Broadband & Internet Services president
Leo J. Hindery Jr.'s comments at last week's @d:tech '99 conference in New
York set the rumor mill into overdrive, with speculation running rampant as to where the
former cable executive may end up next.
Hindery left AT&T Broadband last month in what was
characterized as a mutually agreed-upon decision, ending a sometimes-stormy eight-month
relationship with his former employer.
In his keynote speech at the conference, Hindery reiterated
that he does not desire to run another cable company, but he added that the merging of the
telecommunications, media and Internet industries "fascinates" him.
"I love the customer side a lot," Hindery said.
"I do like what I do for a living, and I don't have to run a cable company to
have that same sort of feel. I expect that in the next couple of weeks, you'll know
what I'm up to."
Hindery declined to elaborate, although in a later
interview, he added that he would make an announcement "before Thanksgiving."
Several industry insiders believe Hindery could end up in
one of two places -- as an executive at Global Crossing Ltd., the telecommunications
company founded by Gary Winnick; or at one of Insight Communications Co. Inc. founder
Michael Willner's various communications investments.
Global Crossing could be a logical landing spot for Hindery
because it has an office near his San Francisco home and its executive team is peppered
with former AT&T Corp. executives, including CEO Robert Annunziata.
Annunziata, who left AT&T in February, was reportedly
fed up with the communications giant's stifling bureaucracy -- something that irked
Hindery, as well.
Winnick also heads Pacific Capital Group Inc., a Beverly
Hills, Calif.-based venture-capital firm that may be an even more appropriate venue for
Pacific Capital specializes in investing in the
telecommunications, media, insurance, real estate, health-care and financial-services
industries. A relationship with such a firm could give Hindery the freedom to do what he
does best: deals.
One industry analyst, who asked not to be identified, said
that although he has no knowledge of Hindery's plans, "Pacific Capital appears
to be the most logical fit."
Willner's ties to Hindery go back to the latter's
days at Tele-Communications Inc., when TCI purchased a major stake in Insight. In addition
to his Insight role, Willner is on the boards of Source Media Inc., an
interactive-television-programming company based in Dallas, and NTL Inc., a New York-based
cable and telecommunications company with operations in the United Kingdom.
Willner dismissed any rumors that Hindery would be working
for or with him. He declined further comment. Global Crossing did not return phone calls
Other industry sources dismissed the Source Media rumor,
adding that the company, which has had some financial difficulties, would be hard-pressed
to pay Hindery what he is worth.
According to some sources, Hindery may not yet know what he
ultimately will end up doing.
"I think he has a number of choices available, and he
is evaluating them," one industry source said. "He's very busy. I
don't think he is capable of not making a decision in a relatively short period of
Despite the speculation on his job future, Hindery devoted
most of his @d:tech speech to the growing popularity of high-speed-data services and how
the industry should address the new responsibility it has to bring information and
technology to the widest possible audience.
"There is a shift under way where watching TV will
become as past-tense as dialing the phone," Hindery said. "Within the last two
years, broadband has gained recognition as the technology of choice. It has accelerated
the convergence among distribution, content and equipment providers."
Hindery added that he believes consolidation among
distribution companies -- a practice he spearheaded as president of TCI -- is largely
complete. However, he sees the next wave of consolidation coming in equipment and
The rest of his speech was devoted to the opportunities
that broadband and digital-cable services bring to the advertising industry. Hindery
stressed that service providers should not lose sight of their customers, and they should
ensure that advanced services are available to all socioeconomic classes.
Hindery's keynote speech was sponsored by Excite@Home
Corp., a company that Hindery had several highly publicized battles with concerning its
strategy to expand its content holdings. Hindery wanted to keep Excite@Home's focus
on distribution -- a stance many in the industry believe was partly responsible for his
departure from AT&T.
Hindery didn't pass up the opportunity to note:
"There is a certain irony to Leo Hindery being brought to you by Excite@Home."