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End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T Hardcover – August 2, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There is much more fall than rise in this riveting account of AT&T's disastrous recent history from USA Today telecom reporter Cauley. While offering only a brief look at AT&T's long, iconic history, Cauley digs in with gusto near the end of Robert Allen's reign as CEO and chairman in the mid-1990s, when the company lost precious years as its long-distance cash cow began wasting away. Cauley is hitting on all cylinders by the time she reaches the heart of the book, the period after Allen was belatedly deposed and Michael Armstrong came to power. Armstrong latched onto cable as AT&T's lifeline to the future, a laudable vision that, the journalist makes mercilessly clear, was butchered in execution. As Armstrong's team overpaid for second-rate companies and bobbled the complex integration issues, the stock market implodes, taking with it the company's capacity to manage its debt load; the competitive pressures, along with WorldCom's massive fraud, destroyed the margins in long distance. Add it all up and you have what Cauley characterizes as a "perfect storm."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In July 2004, when AT&T announced that it would stop marketing long-distance phone service to consumers, it sent a shock wave through the financial community and through the hearts and minds of ordinary people as well. Today the company has already been broken up and swallowed by competitors. How could one of the oldest, most respected, and most dependable American companies be brought to the brink of financial ruin in a few short years? A combination of bad management decisions and worse market timing brought about the perfect storm. Cauley gives a historical overview of American Telephone and Telegraph, beginning with Alexander Graham Bell himself, but focuses primarily on the events around the turn of the new millennium, when former IBM executive Mike Armstrong took over amid twin crises of price wars and internal conflicts. It is a grueling day-to-day account of how ego, bureaucracy, and changing times killed off a beloved institution. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250252
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I spent much of my career at AT&T in mid level management positions. I read this book years ago and have purchased it for many of my friends. While it's a must read for those of us who actually worked at AT&T, it's extremely relevant for anyone who is interested in the politics of what happens in large corporations who lose their core values with layer upon layer of management that focuses entirely on managing upward propelled by a culture of greed and stupidity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had previously purchased this book when it first came out. I was recently reading it for a second time and bought 2 additional copies for friends. As a retired AT&T management employee with over 30 years of service, I felt like the author's account of the characters and events leading up to the fall of AT&T was totally believable and accurate. Looking back and having retired before the collapse, I can now very well see how it happened. Although it makes me sad and angry each time I read it, this book is a very informative no holds barred account of just how bad management, tremendous egos, poor decisions, selfish competing agendas and ineffective communications brought down one of America's greatest companies.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For such a serious subject with grave impact on many shareholders, the author is far too flippant and cavalier. Having read the earlier Brooks book, this carry forward is nowhere near the same quality of verse.

Some factual innaccuracies that could have easily been corroborated however also some interesting material on the very brief Walters reign.
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Format: Hardcover
David Isenberg wrote a paper called "Rise of the Stupid Network" that describes an obvious future in early 1990 communications. Any book on AT&T of that period must discuss these Bell Labs predictions.

Relevant terms including Packet Switching verses Circuit Switching, the Death of Distance, and the Last Mile were the future for communications and for AT&T. Packet switching would obsolete those multi-million AT&T switches. Death of Distance meant a long distance call from New York to Washington costs no more than a call from New York to Australia. - a stunning relevation of that time with serious consequences for AT&T's entire future. The Last Mile was a bottleneck that would restrict access to maybe 97% of the installed fiber optic backbone, restrict computer use, and result in a Federal 1996 Communications law to break the stifling of technology (including a stifled 1981 technology called ADSL).

"The Rise and Fall of AT&T" must discuss this. Instead it discusses personalities, pettiness, and speculations of corporate executives who (if the book was insightful) had little grasp - no idea - of basic industry technologies. Decisions such as buying two cable companies without learning that the infrastructure was defective should have at least been discussed. Who did not have a clue? Gross technical mismanagement by AT&T corporate executives was that flagrant and is not discussed by Cauley. Instead Cauley's book discusses how they felt.

Somehow the AT&T story is only about infighting among personalities as if that was important. The book ignores gross technical ignorance by AT&T management who had little if any technology grasp.
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Format: Hardcover
I am (still) a current employee of AT&T. I am on the 'front-line' which is all the way at the bottom of the totem pole as a customer service rep in consumer long distance. I started working at AT&T in February of 1997 and everything that Leslie Cauley wrote in this novel-happened!!! I kept nodding my head at every turn of the page and remembering everything that happened. I decided to work for the company because of its name and in my 8 years I can't believe what has happened and how quickly it has deteriorated. Thank you Leslie Cauley for writing a book that the public (and customers) can read how fudged up Corporate America really is!!!! With the SBC merger Ms. Cauley can write a sequel to this book and hopefully call it "A New Era: The Triumphant Return of AT&T"
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Format: Hardcover
Leslie Cauley's "The End of the Line" is that rare thing -- a business book that reads like a novel.

Ms. Cauley shrewdly shapes her narrative around the two things readers care about, namely, plot and character. You couldn't find a much better plot. One of the world's greatest companies, one that truly made a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, is faced with difficult, fundamental choices. Through an escalating series of stupendous blunders and poor decisions, the company chooses badly and seals its doom. Even though you know the outcome, you keep wanting to know what happens on the next page. That's a credit to the liveliness of Ms. Cauley's writing.

The plot is good, but the characters are even better. Ms. Cauley creates some wonderfully detailed sketches of the senior executives at the heart of this drama. These men emerge as extraordinarily complex and compelling figures who are anything but the sterotypically one-dimensional man in the gray flannel suit.

Most compelling of all, perhaps, is C. Michael Armstrong, who was brought in to save AT&T and ends up presiding over its death. He ultimately reminds one of King Lear, howling on the heath at the utter whimsy and injustice of the universe.

Even if you never worked at AT&T, as I did for twenty years, you will enjoy this utterly fascinating and ultimately sad book.
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