Book closes on WorldCom name, Mississippi home

by Lynne W. Jeter

Published: April 21,2003

CLINTON — The WorldCom epithet will soon be a ghost. The MCI moniker has risen like a phoenix: from the ashes of bankruptcy comes a rejuvenation of the world-known brand name.

In a press conference reporting on the company’s 100-day turnaround plan on April 14, WorldCom CEO Michael Capellas announced the name change seemingly as an afterthought.

“We laid out a plan 100 days ago to accomplish some very aggressive goals by April 15,” Capellas said. “I am extremely proud to say that our employees have accomplished every goal. Simply stated, we did what we said we were going to do. We completed our three-year business plan and today we filed our Plan of Reorganization with the Bankruptcy Court and Creditor’s Committee. We remain committed to emerging from Chapter 11 later this year.

“We also changed our name to MCI.”

MCI founder Jack Goeken called the name change “a smart move.”

“MCI had a good name before WorldCom came in,” he said. “The problem is that when Bernie took over, all the good people at MCI left. I just hope they have the right people there now.”

Goeken instigated the legal battle that led to Judge Harold H. Greene’s 1983 landmark decision creating competition for long distance telephone service when he challenged AT&T’s monopoly.

When WorldCom acquired MCI in 1998, the company was able to capitalize on MCI’s innovative — and often magical — marketing concepts, such as the Friends & Family plan. However, by the time MCI was for sale, it was the nation’s second-largest long-distance provider, but it was bogged down with one of the industry’s cushiest overheads — 30% of revenues. Longtime WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers drastically slashed that percentage, an accomplishment that is all but forgotten.

Capellas said the company now has “a solid business model, competitive cost structure and a clear focus on returning to our historical position of industry leadership” and “an unwavering focus on integrity, innovation, simplicity and value — all embedded in our name made new again — MCI.”

At press time, rumors were rampant that MCI would be named title sponsor of the annual PGA tour event, The Heritage, which has been held annually since 1969 at the Harbour Town Golf Links in the Sea Pines Resort of Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Ironically, MCI stepped in as title sponsor in 1986 when the old Sea Pines Co., then the tournament’s title sponsor, filed for bankruptcy. WorldCom assumed title sponsorship in 2001. The Heritage Classic Foundation quietly terminated its contract last July, days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

To help fill in the $2.3-million gap to cover the 2003 event’s $8.2-million cost, the Hilton Head Island town council adopted a one-year, one percent hospitality tax increase and the Town of Hilton Head Island became the presenting sponsor.

Tournament director Steve Wilmot was mum about the identity of the new sponsor who inked a four-year, $22 million deal in early March, but an announcement was expected on April 16, the first day of tournament play.

“We’ll miss Bernie this year,” said Wilmot, who sidestepped questions about MCI. “He was always with us on Easter Sunday when we held church service on the 18th green. A real blue jeans kind of guy.”

Today, the always sharp-dressed Capellas, an avid golfer, is clearly in control. About 90% of WorldCom’s creditors approved a reorganization plan that would pay bondholders 36

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