Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Cincinnati Bell gets a new CEO

John Cassidy will be third this year to take the job

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

John F. "Jack" Cassidy, Cincinnati Bell Inc.'s president and chief operating officer, Monday was named president and chief executive officer.

Cassidy, 49, succeeds Kevin Mooney, 45, who said last week that he was resigning effective Thursday. Cassidy will retain the COO's post.

Cassidy becomes the company's third CEO in less than a year:

Mooney guided the company's divestiture of its money-losing broadband business in May - the same month the company changed its name back to Cincinnati Bell from Broadwing Inc. - and financial restructuring. He was named CEO in September.

Chairman and CEO Rick Ellenberger resigned that month in the face of growing investor dissatisfaction with the company's attempt to become a player in the national broadband market.

Mooney, who stands to collect a $1.3 million bonus for completing the restructuring, said he decided to leave because the restructuring was largely complete.

Company chairman Phil Cox said last month that the board of directors had retained a national search firm to consider internal and external candidates to lead the company. "Jack Cassidy has an impressive track record of strong and innovative leadership," he said.

Cox said he interviewed 35 Bell employees who worked for Cassidy.

"They said, 'He got us to do things we didn't think we could,'" he said.

Cox said several external candidates wondered why the company was looking outside, given Cassidy's record.

During Cassidy's tenure, the company introduced new wireless and residential long distance service and won five J.D. Power awards for customer satisfaction.

Cassidy, who joined Cincinnati Bell seven years ago to launch its wireless business, said he was "thrilled with the board's faith and confidence in me."

Cox said the board has been considering the company's future leadership needs for some time.

He said the company looked at Cassidy and Mooney and a dozen external candidates. He said the final decision boiled down to Cassidy and one outside candidate.

"Kevin Mooney did a great job for us on the financial side," Cox said. "This is a time for leadership, faith and vision. We think we've got that in Jack Cassidy."

Cassidy said the board's leadership review was the right thing.

"We're not a new company, but we're headed in a new strategic direction, and the board and management need to be lockstep," he said.

Cassidy said the company's priorities are the same as before: paying down the $2.5 billion debt remaining from its failed attempt in the broadband business; while looking for opportunities to expand its local, wireless and long-distance businesses.

One event this year put Cassidy on the defensive. He faced a reprimand in May from the board for failing to disclose a financial relationship with a company doing business with Broadwing. The nature of the reprimand was not disclosed.

Cassidy said then that he disagreed that he was in violation of the company's code of conduct.

The matter was dropped publicly after the reprimand.

The future of Cincinnati Bell's downtown headquarters has drawn attention in the wake of Convergys Corp.'s tax incentive package from the city of Cincinnati and state of Ohio allowing it to buy Atrium One, the Fourth Street building that both companies share.

Cassidy said the company is just starting to consider what its space needs will be. He said the company wants to remain based in downtown Cincinnati but hasn't begun talks with city or state officials.

Cassidy, a native of Milford, attended the University of Cincinnati and Cleveland State University.

Before launching Cincinnati Bell Wireless, he was vice president of sales for Cantel, Canada's largest cellular provider.

He joined Cantel after serving as vice president of sales and marketing for Ericsson Communication's mobile handset business, where he oversaw its North American introduction.

He has also been active in several business and charitable boards.


E-mail mboyer@enquirer.com

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