Bernard Ebbers

Bernard Ebbers

The head of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world - WorldCom
Date of Birth: 27.08.1941
Country: Canada

Biography of Bernard Ebbers

Bernard Ebbers was born on August 27, 1941, in the small town of Edmonton, located in eastern Canada. His father often moved in search of work, but the Ebbers family still struggled to make ends meet. "If my father had a few extra dollars by the end of the month, our whole family would go to a diner and each eat a hamburger," Bernard recalled of his hungry childhood. Even on Christmas, Santa Claus would only bring him a few pictures or a deck of playing cards. However, his parents instilled in him the values of faith and the belief that eternal values were the most important in life.

After finishing school, Bernard enrolled in the University of Alberta to become a physical education teacher, but he was expelled for poor performance. He then tried attending Calvin College in Michigan, but was unable to stay there either. He returned to Edmonton and worked two jobs - delivering bread and milk during the day and working as a bouncer at a local bar in the evenings. This hard work didn't last long, and Bernard was recommended by his local Baptist church community to play basketball at a small Baptist college in Mississippi. This was a suitable path for the modest and religious Bernard. However, his basketball skills didn't stand out, and his school friends remember him as someone who didn't excel at anything but was honest and didn't like to lose.

After college, Bernard found a job as a physical education teacher at a nearby elementary school. However, his passion for God alone was not enough for working with children, and he soon quit teaching and became a worker at a sewing factory in Brookhaven. Even with his hard work and honesty, Bernard could only rise to the position of head storekeeper by 1974. Frustrated, he borrowed money from friends and family and purchased a run-down motel. For several years, Bernard and his wife Linda lived in a trailer on the motel premises and worked tirelessly to make it profitable. Eventually, the motel started to generate a small income. Bernard realized that he enjoyed making money, and this new endeavor became his new religious principle.

Bernard began to expand his business by convincing two friends to use their homes as collateral for loans to purchase more motels. In 1981, Bernard and his partners already had nine small hotels. Around the same time, the telecommunications industry in the United States began to deregulate, allowing anyone to lease communication channels for long-distance calls. By chance, along with the last motel, Bernard also acquired the right to lease one of the telephone lines in Mississippi.

Bernard liked the idea of reselling the capacity of long-distance telephone lines. According to legend, he and three friends came up with the concept of their first telephone company on a napkin in a café in Gettysburg. They immediately sketched out a diagram in which their company purchased wholesale long-distance communication from Southern Central Bell and then resold it to local businesses. They registered the company as Long Distance Discount Service (LDDS). The University of Southern Mississippi became LDDS's first customer.

The future telecommunications giant was created by people who didn't know much about the technology. In addition to Bernard, the founders of LDDS included a pizza delivery person and a disc jockey. What's even more surprising is that Bernard himself was a technophobe. He never used email and rarely worked on a computer.

Interestingly, Bernard was initially just one of the co-owners of LDDS, but two years later, his partners convinced him to take the helm of the company. Perhaps they were swayed by his managerial credo: "In our business, everyone is proud of their strategies and technologies. I don't care about any of that. The only thing that matters is the monthly revenue growth of our sales agents."

In essence, Bernard managed the massive company like a large motel. During a board meeting in early 2002, when emergency measures were being discussed to rescue WorldCom from its deep crisis, Bernard, as the chairman, seriously suggested reducing the amount of coffee in the employee vending machines, turning off lights in the bathrooms, and prohibiting the use of air conditioning.

Between endless acquisitions, Bernard lived the life of a righteous Baptist. He taught the Word of God at Sunday school, personally mowed his lawn, and had lunch at a small family-owned restaurant after church service. By the late 1990s, Bernard had risen to the 376th position on the list of the world's richest people, with a fortune of $1.4 billion. At that time, WorldCom employed 75,000 people worldwide, its network spanned nearly 200,000 kilometers, and its 40 million customers generated $40 billion in annual revenue. The $100 invested in WorldCom in 1990 turned into $3,800 by the end of 2000.

Under this golden rain, Bernard's focus shifted away from Christian values. In 1997, after 30 years of marriage, he divorced Linda and married a young, tall, blonde employee from the central office.

Problems began in 2000, both for Bernard and WorldCom. In the fall, the company warned that its revenues for the year would be 40% lower than planned. At the same time, Bernard, in order to pay off personal debts, put his ocean yacht up for sale for $20 million and started selling his WorldCom shares. Worried that shareholders wouldn't understand the behavior of the company's top executive, the WorldCom board of directors granted Bernard a $375 million "personal loan." The interest rate on the loan did not exceed 2.2% per year.

With the cessation of constant acquisitions, WorldCom began to fall apart. Only good management could have saved the company, but Bernard was unable to do so. Perhaps he was waiting for another miracle, but it never happened. On March 29, 2002, he resigned. Two weeks later, the terms of Bernard's $375 million loan were disclosed. Shortly after, billion-dollar financial manipulations came to light. WorldCom's accountants, along with auditors from Arthur Andersen, skillfully turned lease payments for the use of communication channels into long-term capital investments, and losses of $1.2 billion in 2001 into profits of $2.7 billion. Two months after Bernard's resignation, WorldCom filed for bankruptcy. Among the many accusations against Bernard Ebbers was the unauthorized use of shareholder funds, where he could single-handedly make decisions on acquisitions after just 45 minutes of consideration. Although Bernard didn't like to flaunt his wealth, he did indulge himself by buying an 18-meter yacht named Aquasition for $20 million and a ranch called Douglas Lake, the largest in Canada, for $47 million.