Somers Has Some Cable Know-How

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AT&T Corp. senior executive vice president and chieffinancial officer Daniel Somers has been a rising star at the company, but until heassumed the position of interim head of operations for AT&T Broadband & InternetServices, he had been a relative unknown in the cable industry.

"He's the CFO of AT&T, that's all Iknow," said one AT&T watcher who asked not to be named.

But although some may characterize Somers as a beancounter, he does have a wealth of cable experience, and he has even presided over somecontentious negotiations in the industry.

Before coming to AT&T two years ago, Somers waschairman of Bell Cablemedia plc, the United Kingdom cable operation of Bell Canada Inc.

Somers was one of the architects behind the deal thatcombined Bell Cablemedia with other British cable interests to create London'slargest cable provider, Cable & Wireless Communications plc.

Somers was also the man behind Bell Canada InternationalInc.'s $260 million investment in Jones Intercable Inc.

While that deal ran into some major problems -- Jones andBell Canada executives were constantly clashing -- Somers left that position relativelyunscathed.

According to some former Jones executives who asked not tobe named, the wounds inflicted by Bell Canada have been slow to heal. But although theproblems ultimately ended up in litigation -- for which Somers testified in court onbehalf of his former employer -- there is little bitterness directed at the currentAT&T executive.

At the root of the problems between the two companies wasBell Canada's insistence on blocking virtually every deal Jones wanted to do,including creating its own Jones Internet Channel, which led to the litigation.

Bell Canada also blocked Jones from purchasing a200,000-subscriber system in Montgomery County, Md., from SBC Communications Inc., whichwould have helped Jones to lock up the Washington, D.C., market.

"It really was [BCI chairman] Derek Burney who was theinstigator," one former Jones executive said. "Dan was the good soldier."

Somers also has experience running cable systems, whichshould come in handy in his job as interim head of AT&T Broadband.

"He was the wheeler-dealer on the [BCI] corporateside," the former Jones executive said. "Dan's got a great business acumen.He's almost been Zelig-like in his career."