AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre: Lord of the Rings

The BellSouth deal creates a $165 billion colossus. But unlike the old Ma Bell, it faces a pack of hungry rivals in a morphing market

Edward E. Whitacre Jr. has a thing for airplane hangars. The chief executive of AT&T (T) has cut numerous acquisitions in these cavernous confines, including his $61 billion purchase of Ameritech. So when Whitacre and BellSouth (BLS) CEO F. Duane Ackerman were getting close to finalizing terms for AT&T's proposed $67 billion acquisition of BellSouth, the two boarded their corporate jets and flew to a nondescript hangar in Memphis.

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