No. 9: AT&T

Englewood, Colo.

Revenue: $8.217 billion

Cash flow: $1.7 billion

Although top executives want to stay the course, pressure is building for AT&T Broadband to sell, either to Comcast or others in line to snap up its 13.8 million subscribers.

With profit margins at 23% — almost half the figure of other multisystem operators — a net loss in subscribers last quarter, and huge debt from overpaying for MediaOne and rebuilding TCI’s obsolete network as well as the high costs of launching and marketing cable telephony, the No. 1 MSO is fending off angry shareholders.

Faced with $28 billion in debt, AT&T has cut 10,000 employees and slashed overhead, and lost 2 million subs. Among the high-ranking execs who were laid off or exited the company were chief technology officer Tony Werner and senior veep of marketing Doug Seserman.

Company had to curtail plans to deploy Microsoft’s advanced digital set-top boxes in favor of a more limited interactivity.

In March, the company restructured its data, telephony and new-product divisions, strengthening the hand of new technology chief Greg Braden.

And in July, CEO Dan Somers crowed, “We have indeed turned the corner.” That came after a second-quarter report in which AT&T boosted margins and reported a 14% increase in revenues.

The question is: Have Somers and AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong run out of time?

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