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Mark Baker

For British Telecom, a true North American presence was first established when it acquired TYMNET from McDonnell Douglas in 1989. …

For British Telecom, a true North American presence was first established when it acquired TYMNET from McDonnell Douglas in 1989. At a cost of $355 million, it gained a global data network that fitted neatly into its expanding ISDN capability. The only surprise for the man who led the acquisition was when he was asked to run the new company.

Mark Baker was director of marketing for British Telecom International when he got the assignment. Now, as president and CEO of BT North America, he says, “I’ve been involved with BT’s worldwide development since I joined in 1986. Since 1988 the company has been determined to become the world’s most successful telecommunication company by developing its core business of networks and network services.”

Comments the Gartner Group’s Ken McGee, “Mark Baker is introducing a very healthy new energy into BTNA.”

Baker says his 1,700 employee, San Jose, CA, headquartered operation is doing well. BT was the largest government-owned operation privatized by Margaret Thatcher; its 1990-1991 revenues were over $23 billion, with a respectable net profit of $3.64 billion.

“I’m running all international BT business from North America,” says Baker. Though it has recently introduced an ambitious videoconferencing operation, at present, the heart of BTNA’s business is Global Network Services (GNS); based in San Jose, GNS creates worldwide access for private communications and data networks of BTNA’s corporate clients. TYMNET is a crucial ingredient in the GNS mix.

GNS, of course, puts BT directly in competition with similar services-very similar services-from AT&T, NCI, Telenet, and Infonet, among others. The battle, according to Baker, “isn’t down to technology or network reach or commercial infrastructure and, increasingly, pricing is not at the top of the list.” Then what is?

Security, claims Baker, and service: “Understanding the customer’s operational requirements and providing a solution for them, being a strategic partner.”

BTNA’s current clients-about 400-are mainly American companies, but Baker would like a quarter of them to be foreign within five years. He won’t quote figures for his operation, but it’s likely still a tiny portion of BT’s overall revenues. Clearly, rapid growth is in order.

The man charged with this task has degrees in business administration marketing and engineering. A native of Sheffield, England, Baker, 45, was marketing director of Plessey Defense Systems before taking the same job at BT International. Today he lives with his wife and three children in northern California, skiing with them when he can get away from selling. 

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