Tele-Entreprenuer of Last Century

by Dave Michels

This week on PBS is a new documentary about Bill McGowan – they guy that broke up the AT&T; “Ma Bell” Bell System Monopoly.  The story of the most famous business leader you’ve never heard.

There is a lot of interest right now in start-ups and a lot of discussion around entrepreneurship. If you are not that familiar with Bill McGowan – he is worth getting to know.

Bill McGowan bought himself into the CEO role of MCI – a company that was broke and product-less. Bill had some VC background and smelled an opportunity – an opportunity confirmed by the fact AT&T; was a bit upset about MCI’s plans to extend trucker radios.

Bill built MCI into a huge carrier that not only took on AT&T; head-on in the marketplace, but in the court rooms as well. His journey led to the US government anti-trust case against AT&T; and its ultimate break-up.

The telecom story is interesting, as is the story of Bill McGowan – an entrepreneur that really shook up telecom – and a true visionary defining what became the current industry. The story of Bill McGowan really is very interesting. Attractive to both telecom types and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, neither Bill or MCI are around any more – but the tale should not be forgot. It tells and shows exactly what an innovative start-up can do.

To air nationally on PBS World on September 13, a new documentary titled “Long Distance Warrior.”

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