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EDITIONS
Microsoft Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 14:49 GMT
Netscape's James Barksdale: A profile
James Barksdale
James Barksdale made his point at the trial
James Barksdale was the first witness to take the stand in the Microsoft anti-trust trial.

The former Netscape chief executive's evidence was at the heart of accusations against Microsoft.

Taking on an industry giant such as Microsoft was something Barksdale was well prepared for.

Competition has come naturally to Barksdale, possibly as a result of being one of six sons of a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

Aside from natural sibling rivalry, his parents also reportedly ran a 'boy of the week' contest to reward a good deed around the house.

Prepared for battle

He also appears to have had a certain confidence about how things will turn out - while at the University of Mississippi he told his wife Sally on their first date that they would spend their lives together.

By the time the Microsoft challenge came along he had also built up experience of taking on the corporate heavyweights - and winning.

Earlier in his career he had headed Federal Express and McCaw Cellular Communications, and succeeded in revolutionising their industries while competing against much larger rivals UPS and AT&T respectively.

Barksdale arrived late at Netscape, joining the board in 1994 and the company itself as chief executive in January 1995.

His spell at the helm, while earning many plaudits, was not without its perceived failings.

The decision to continue charging for the Navigator browser long after Microsoft began giving Internet Explorer away, led to the loss of market shares.

Federal Express

Others say Netscape could have been Yahoo! if he had realised the value of its web portal earlier.

But these may seem minor grumbles given that the company he helped grow was worth $10.2bn when sold to AOL in 1999.

Unlike some of his rivals, Barksdale was not a techie - but he was a proven executive.

He had been briefly chief executive of AT&T Wireless Services after it merged with McCaw Cellular Communications, where he had held the top executive's post.

For a dozen years before entering the telecoms world, Barksdale had been with Federal Express, becoming chief operating officer and bringing in a computerised tracking system.

Penniless ambition

Since the purchase of Netscape by America Online, which left him $700m better off, Barksdale has further broadened out his range of business interests.

He sits on the boards of AOL, Network Computer, Sun Microsystems and 3Com.

In April 1999 he started his own investment advisory firm, pumping $5m into Homegrocer.com, a start-up company in Washington, US, which takes food orders online and delivers them with a fleet of trucks.

He has also invested in start up Tellme, which aims to bring the information on the internet to anyone with a telephone - with users getting the web information spoken out to them.

But like many of his fellow band of the super rich in the US, Barksdale, has given huge chunks of cash to charities or good causes.

Most of his are centred on improving the status of his home state of Mississippi, with his ambition being to give all his fortune away by the time he dies.

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