Just another buyout

Could the buyout of BellSouth by AT&T be more convoluted? Consider:

- AT&T is really SBC, which used to be Southwestern Bell. BellSouth used to be Southern Bell, and Southern Bell, Southwestern Bell and a bunch of other local telcos SBC owns were originally part of AT&T, back when AT&T was actually a company.

- “AT&T” had become little more than a long-distance company and a brand name when SBC paid $16 billion for it last year.

- AT&T spun out AT&T Wireless as a public company, and it was aquired by Cingular for $41 billion in 2004 to make Cingular the No. 1 wireless carrier in the U.S.

- Cingular is owned by SBC and BellSouth and the company has spent millions re-branding AT&T Wireless service as Cingular.

- With the buyout of BellSouth, Cingular will become AT&T Wireless.

Apparently SBC thinks there”s a lot of value in the AT&T brand. I don”t see it, but the brand is surely more valuable than the long-distance business.

What”s amazing, though, is the public-company reach of former AT&T entities.

Say you were born in 1980 and on the day you were born your grandfather bought some shares of AT&T in your name to hold in trust until you turn 25. By last year, that portfolio – through a web of spinoffs, acquisitions and mergers – would have included shares of AT&T, SBC, Verizon, BellSouth, Qwest, Comcast, NCR, Lucent Technologies and Liberty Media.

As for BellSouth, I have no love for phone companies – especially those that have tried as hard as BellSouth to squeeze out competition – but I hate to see an Atlanta company go away. Lots of jobs will be lost in town, I”m sure. The upside is that traffic in Midtown will get better, and lunch lines at The Varsity will get shorter.

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