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Mitchell: I was the ‘fall guy’

Mitchell claims he took the hit for AltaVista cock-up

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Andy Mitchell claims he took the rap for AltaVista UK's failed bid to offer unmetered Net access.

Speaking to the BBC Mitchell said he was just the "fall guy" for the failed operation and that he wanted to "wash his hands" of the whole affair.

By inference, he fingered his former employees as being behind Britain's biggest Internet scandal.

Said Mitchell: "Somehow the company had to remove itself from this product, and I had been the spokesperson so far, and so I found myself in the middle of some very unusual corporate politics."

He said he joined AltaVista in February this year and made the announcement about offering unmetered Net access a month later.

He said it was impossible for anyone to put together such a massive deal in such a small time.

"The truth is that the idea of the service was conceived long before I joined the company, so as I said, I was probably less of a managing director and probably more of a spokesperson," he said.

He said his biggest regret was that he never "grabbed or retained control, and found myself
in a very public and very awkward situation."

Mitchell's comments are believed to be the first time he has publicly gone on the record to explain what happened. Until now, he has taken responsibility for the bungled episode.

Today's interview help shed some new light on the affair, and while his honesty is to be welcomed since it helps balance the account of the events surrounding the farce, many questions still go unanswered.

Unfortunately, the man who could answer them is no longer in charge. Last month Rod Schrock, AltaVista CEO, resigned to "spend more time with his family" - a comic euphemism in the UK for getting the sack.

At the time, Sam Sethi, European Marketing Director of CMGI, (parent of AltaVista) told Reg that Schrock's departure had absolutely nothing to do with the botched operation in the UK.

No one from AltaVista would comment on Mitchell's allegations. Instead a spokeswoman said AltaVista "didn't want to get into a slanging match" with Mitchell.

"AltaVista said all it wanted to say at the time," she said, before wishing Mitchell well in his new job. ®

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