A Tough Taskmaster For Learning Co.

Can turnaround artist Alec Gores succeed where Mattel failed?

In 1993, Los Angeles investor Alec Gores acquired the customer-service arm of a struggling maker of word-processing machines. One of the assets he got was the firm's 800 number, 800 CALL NBI. The last three letters, the company's initials, also happened to spell MCI on a telephone keypad. A year later, a representative of AT&T called Gores and offered him $550,000 for the number. AT&T didn't want archrival MCI to be able to use it. Gores took the money, twice what he had paid for the entire business. Says Gores: "There are hidden assets in every company."

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