March 2006

AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre: Lord of the Rings

Edward E. Whitacre Jr. has a thing for airplane hangars. The chief executive of AT&T (T) has cut numerous acquisitions in these cavernous confines, including his $61 billion purchase of Ameritech. So when Whitacre and BellSouth (BLS) CEO F. Duane Ackerman were getting close to finalizing terms for AT&T’s proposed $67 billion acquisition of BellSouth, the two boarded their corporate jets and flew to a nondescript hangar in Memphis.

No deal lieutenants were there. No lawyers or bankers. Just Ed and Duane. Together, they worked the deal out on notepads and shook hands. “We hammered out most of the details right there,” Whitacre said in an interview. “We had a feeling that now was the time to do this.”

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