No. 47

Armstrong Leaves Hughes

Los Angeles lost one of its most respected executives in October when C. Michael Armstrong quit Hughes Electronics in El Segundo to take the helm of AT & T.;

Armstrong was credited with rescuing Hughes, a long-time defense contractor, from the post-Cold War junkyard and turning it into a profitable pioneer in commercial satellite communications.

As top gun at AT & T;, Armstrong hopes to perform similar magic. He has already halted all hiring for non-critical positions, agreed to sell AT & T;'s credit-card business, and undertaken other restructuring moves to make the telecommunications behemoth more efficient.

Hughes, meanwhile, is being led by Michael Smith, former chairman of Hughes Aircraft Co., which was recently sold to Raytheon Co. Some analysts have questioned whether Smith, who comes from an accounting background, has the creativity needed to keep Hughes at the forefront of the technology race.

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