AT&T Corp. is bringing in another weapon to help fight its battle for supremacy in the deregulated telecommunications industry. The telephony giant announced on Thursday, December 9, the appointment of Charles Noski, 47, to the CFO position. Noski joins AT&T from Hughes Electronics Corp., where he spent ten years as controller, CFO, and most recently president and COO. He takes over for Dan Somers, who was appointed head of AT&T’s broadband cable business last week.
Noski will join his former boss at Hughes, C. Michael Armstrong, who became chairman of AT&T in 1997. “I’ve known and worked with Chuck Noski for a long time and believe his financial and management talents, combined with solid strategic thinking, make him ideally suited to be CFO as we execute our growth strategy,” Armstrong said in a statement.
The new CFO voiced similar sentiments. “I’m really looking forward to working with [Armstrong] again,” Noski says. “We have very complementary management styles, and personally we are good friends.” Noski is known for his quiet, introspective personality, while Armstrong is considered a more aggressive and charismatic leader.
The first order of business for Noski will be to immerse himself in AT&T’s businesses. “I expect to be very proactive,” he says. “My style is to be involved in the businesses.” He says he also expects to spend a lot of time communicating with Wall Street.
So far, the reaction on Wall Street has been positive. “With the moves that AT&T has made recently, the management team is stronger than it has ever been,” says Douglas A. Christopher, an analyst at investment firm Crowell, Weeden & Co. Still, Noski has some major challenges. “They spent a lot of money on cable and had some dilution in their shares,” says Christopher. “They will have to make that work.” He says the key will be capital allocation. “They have some big cash cows. They have to redeploy that capital in the right growth opportunities.”
Indeed, Noski comes to AT&T during a time of transition. Former CFO Somers played a key role in some major acquisitions, including TCI and Media One. Now Noski will have the task of integrating them. “The company is still in the process of digesting these huge acquisitions,” says Christopher.
It won’t be the first time Noski participated in a major overhaul. At Hughes he played a key role in paring off the company’s defense business, which it sold to Raytheon, spinning out the Delphi autoparts business, and restructuring Hughes as a satellite communications company.