Before George Conrades took over as CEO and president of BBN, he rose to a top spot at IBM on the strength of his sales skills. That salesmanship has paid off: On May 6, Conrades inked a deal to sell the Internet pioneer to GTE, which is pushing into new telecom markets. The price: $616 million.

Since joining BBN in 1994, Conrades has turned the company into an Internet star--selling noncore businesses and providing reliable, high-speed Internet "backbones" to big companies. But heavy investments in the BBN network have kept the company from turning a profit, though. "Conrades has moved the ball, but he hasn't scored a touchdown," says David Goodtree, of Forrester Research.

The deal with GTE could pose problems with AT&T, a major BBN customer. Once the deal with the AT&T rival is complete, that business could go away. But Conrades will come out on top: He holds stock and options amounting to 2.6% of BBN. They're worth around $16 million at the proposed acquisition price of $29 a share. Not bad for three years' work.

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