Archive for Monday, February 3, 2003

Sprint offer met with court order

February 3, 2003


— A judge has granted BellSouth Corp. a temporary restraining order preventing its vice chairman, Gary D. Forsee, from accepting an offer to be chairman and chief executive of Sprint Corp.

Sprint confirmed Sunday that it had offered Forsee the job and said William Esrey would remain chairman during a transition period.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge issued the order over the weekend after the company filed the request late Friday, BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said Sunday.

Forsee, who joined BellSouth in 1999, has a noncompete clause in his contract that prevents him from taking a job with a competitor of the Atlanta-based regional phone company. Sprint and BellSouth both sell long-distance service in nine Southeastern states and compete nationally for wireless customers.

BellSouth went to court Friday after Forsee, 52, told the company he wanted to take the Sprint position, replacing Esrey, according to a person familiar with the situation. Forsee, who was a Sprint executive for nine years, oversees BellSouth's domestic operations.

With its suit, BellSouth is trying to prevent Forsee from divulging "intellectual capital," including company pricing plans and merger and acquisition information, to a competitor. Forsee also is chairman of Cingular Wireless, BellSouth's joint venture with SBC Communications Inc.

Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kan., has declined to comment on a possible management shakeup. Sprint will report its quarterly earnings on Wednesday, and analysts believe the company will discuss the issue then.

Esrey's departure has been expected since Sprint announced in November that he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with lymphoma. But analysts had expected chief operating officer Ronald LeMay to succeed him.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that LeMay also is expected to leave the company.

Sprint is the nation's third largest long-distance provider and fourth-largest wireless provider. BellSouth is the dominant local phone provider in the South.

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