William G. McGowan
Founder of MCI Communications Corporation
For William G. McGowan, a little ignorance has created a great deal of bliss.
McGowan admits that he had no real experience in the telecommunications industry when he bought Microwave Communications, Inc. "Fortunately, I didn't know anything about the industry," he says. "Because if you knew enough about it, you were told you were insane to try to get into it. But it didn't bother me."
Very little seems to bother Bill McGowan. He is a ferocious competitor in business and in his personal life. In his role as founder and leader of the United States' second-largest long-distance company, McGowan orchestrated MCI's climb from an upstart telecommunications firm to its present status as a worldwide communications giant with revenue of nearly $8 billion. Today, MCI employs approximately 25,000 people worldwide with divisions headquartered in four major U.S. cities. MCI's international operations are based in New York with offices in London, Tokyo, Geneva, and more than 40 other countries. The company offers a vast array of domestic and international long-distance services including voice, data, electronic messaging, fax, and telex services to more than 180 countries.
Four years ago, the MCI chief's personal crisis began with a supposed businessman's heart attack. When a rehabilitation program failed to improve his condition, McGowan became a candidate for and eventually received the heart of a 20-year old car crash victim. Of the 9,000 people who have had heart transplants, McGowan has been among the most active, and he is the first chairman of a major corporation to go back to work following a cardiac transplant.
McGowan is most often credited as the catalyst for competition in the long-distance industry. The early years were a tough uphill climb. AT&T was king of the hill, unwilling to concede even an inch of territory. McGowan was responsible for leading MCI's charge to end AT&T's long-distance telephone monopoly in the courts and at the FCC. This set the stage for AT& T's 1984 breakup and spawned genuine competition in the industry.
As an industry leader, McGowan has actively promoted innovative or improved telecommunications technologies such as the use of information technologies as a strategic business tool. His contributions have been recognized by a number of leading business publications and industry groups including The Wall Street Journal's Centennial Journal feature acknowledging his contributions as a milestone in American business history.