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WorldCom Founder Ebbers Dies; $520m OzEmail Deal Recalled

One of the most colourful, and criminal, characters of the nineties telecoms industry, Bernie Ebbers, pictured, has died, aged 78.

WorldCom founder Ebbers was held in awe by the US telecoms industry for having built WorldCom from almost nothing into a global powerhouse through an extremely aggressive acquisition strategy spanning two decades.

It all came crashing down in 2002 when he resigned in the face of an SEC inquiry into WorldCom’s accounting practices and with WorldCom teetering under $US30 billion of debt.

Ebbers was subsequently found guilty of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, for falsifying WorldCom’s financial records, and was only recently released from prison on health grounds.

WorldCom had bought Australia’s OzEmail for an eyebrow-lifting $520 million in 1999, making instant multi-millionaires of founders Sean Howard, Trevor Kennedy and then recently-elected MP Malcolm Turnbull.

Ozemail had earlier become the first Australian company to list on the US Nasdaq index, at which point the trio held 54 percent of OzEmail shares. In 2005, after WorldCom collapsed, Perth ISP iiNet (now part of TPG) bought OzEmail for just $110 million.

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