Having scored the biggest bankruptcy filing and the biggest accounting fraud in corporate history, WorldCom Inc. is creeping off the world stage. It's changing its name to MCI, which was one of the companies it purchased just a few short years ago when bluff and bluster were as good as gold.
The company will also abandon Clinton, Miss., its unlikely corporate headquarters the last few years, returning to Ashburn, Va., near Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport. MCI was previously headquartered in Washington and maintains a large presence there.
WorldCom says it expects to emerge later this year from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where it landed last July with $41 billion in debt and an accounting scandal that so far includes some $11 billion in bogus revenue and profits.
As it tries to reinvent itself, MCI is launching an advertising campaign that portrays it as a leader in "the convergence of local, long-distance and data services." This concept has been around awhile -- and sounded a lot better a few years ago, when no one was quite sure what it meant.
Now, with customers abandoning their wired telephone service and turning to the Internet for services once carried out over long-distance and leased network lines, it has less appeal on Wall Street and may fall on deaf consumer ears as well.
Despite its troubles, MCI remains the second-biggest long-distance carrier, behind AT&T, and still provides a major portion of the Internet "backbone." The name is still thought to have mostly favorable associations for consumers, who perhaps recall its innovative break-throughs in the 1970s, when it fought its way into the long-distance market previously monopolized by AT&T.
The company's switch to the MCI name in its advertising and promotion that there is no mention whatsoever of WorldCom. Normally, a "new and improved" campaign makes at least passing mention to the company's former identity.
In this case, WorldCom's excesses are seen as so excessive that the company disdains even the slightest mention. "It's a cancer," one executive said.