WorldCom chief quits

Bernard J. Ebbers will leave the US telecommunications giant amid plummeting fortunes on Wall Street and a regulatory probe, according to reports

Bernard J. Ebbers, chief executive of US telecommunications giant WorldCom, has resigned, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal quoting company executives. The reported resignation arrived amid growing pressure from the company's outside directors, and concern over a wide-ranging investigation by regulators.

Shares of WorldCom, the No. 2 US long-distance telephone and data services company, fell almost 33 percent to a new all-time low on Monday on concerns about its ability to meet future debt service payments, analysts said.

WorldCom was not immediately available to confirm the report.

Since the company slashed its growth outlook on 19 April, the stock has fallen almost 61 percent.

Ebbers, who is 60 years old, agreed to resign on Friday afternoon in a meeting with outside directors, and continued discussions on Saturday, formally turning in the resignation on Monday, according to the Journal. The company is expected to announce the departure early on Tuesday, according to the report.

Directors have grown increasingly agitated with Ebbers over the company's sinking stock price, and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation is probing the more than 60 acquisitions by which WorldCom grew from a small company to a world-class telecoms giant, and a $366m (£256m) personal loan granted to Ebbers by the company.

WorldCom vice chairman John Sidgmore, who formerly ran the company's Internet unit, UUNet, will take over the post of chief executive, according to the paper.

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