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His Brilliant Career

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LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
3/26/2003

Cometa Networks Inc.'s Larry Brilliant has one thing he wants you all to know –- he's not leaving the ambitious wireless LAN networking venture he helped to launch less than four months ago behind (see Rainbow Unveiled).

Instead -- Brilliant told Unstrung this afternoon -- the reason he's stepping aside to become vice chairman of the board is to let someone with experience building out large data networks take the helm.

That someone is Gary Weis, who recently retired as senior vice president of AT&T Global Network Services and was before that an executive at IBM Global Services (see Cometa Names Weis as CEO).

"He's built the largest and most successful Internet networks in the world," Brilliant says. "I'm an old fart, and I've been CEO of two public companies, and I'm part owner of this one."

Weis will need all that experience if he's to achieve what Cometa has set out to do -- build a network of more than 25,000 wireless LAN hotspots across the U.S. (see Rainbow Unveiled and Hot Spots: Part Deux).

Brilliant says he always intended to be an interim CEO. "First it was 30 days, then it was 60, then 90, and then 180," he says, adding that Cometa has been trying to persuade Weis to take the CEO position for nearly five months.

Of course, along with his successes, Weis has had some flame-outs of his own, most notably with Concert, the massive networking joint venture between British Telecom plc (BT) and AT&T, which finally wound down last April. Weis was the last CEO of the doomed venture.

Brilliant also happens to have more than 10 years of experience in dealing with smallpox and volunteered to be a "first responder" for the center for disease control (CDC) after the September 11 attacks. In its coverage of Brilliant stepping down at Cometa, the Wall Street Journal picked up on this angle in their coverage, but Brilliant reckons they overplayed it.

"Smallpox is a factor," he says. "But I think they made it sound like an epidemic is imminent, and that just isn't the case." Phew!

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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