I was around when Worldcom and Bernie hit the big time, but as is usually the case I did not understand. I worked for Nextel and the Worldcom deal was almost done… But I really did not understand.
About a year ago I tried to understand. I checked out every book with a mention of Worldcom and read everything I could find on the internet. I believe I started to write something, but it was never finished. There is not much available on the company or Ebbers himself; one local writer wrote a book that was pretty much just newspaper clippings but that is about it.
For prosperity, there is the one short CNBC video with Bernie acting as town owner.
Ebbers is from northwest Canada. He went to several colleges, played basketball, and led an unspectacular life until he became prosperous through hard work and cheap motels. He had migrated to Mississippi. He was religious and as a community do-gooder he joined a group to invest in a new opportunity in telecommuications: AT&T was forced to sell-off long distance capacity. The venture initially floundered and Ebbers became CEO.
With Scott Sullivan as the brains and Ebbers as the spokesman (not to mention UUNet), Worldcom became an acquisition machine. It helped to be in a growth market–again, not to mention wireless which Ebbers eschewed–and it was especially beneficial to be crooked. Everyone (Enron was another star) was doing it but some were worse than others. Ebbers got caught.
Seemingly untouchable was he. Boy was he arrogant. Not ignorant, which he pleaded, but arrogant.
What’s next, Madoff set free as well? That is the point, to die in prison.
Good God, prison seems like a horrible place. Ebbers was never contrite. Maybe he never adjusted.
Still it appears to be a reasonable and justifiable decision. We are, after all, human. If presented with the chance to do the right thing, do it.