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Malone talks up AT&T

Shares jump on rumors of hiring

Shares of AT&T Corp. jumped Wednesday on rumors denied by people close to the company that chairman-CEO Michael Armstrong is on the way out and Liberty Media head John Malone will replace him.

Shares jumped 3.7% in a tepid market to close at $31.88 — a little over half the 52-week high of $61 hit late last year. The stock drop has dismayed investors, some of whom doubt the wisdom of Armstrong’s jump into the cable and broadband world through costly acquisitions and investments.

AT&T bought Malone’s giant cabler Tele-Communications last year and its purchase of MediaOne Group is pending. Programming and investment group Liberty Media was a unit of TCI and now belongs to AT&T, but is run by Malone.

Malone, who sits on AT&T’s board and is its biggest individual shareholder, has publicly criticized AT&T’s stock performance.

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