Eleven months ago, Douglas G. Smith, chairman and chief executive of Omnipoint Corp. in Bethesda, was just your run-of-the-mill telecommunications millionaire. His holdings in his mid-size wireless phone company were worth about $75 million on paper.

But since Jan. 4, Smith's 14 percent stake in Omnipoint has exploded in value by exactly the amount above, making his holdings worth more than $671 million as of Friday's market close.

The reason for the surge is Omnipoint's pending sale to VoiceStream Wireless Corp., a Washington-state company that has had a similar explosion in value, especially since June, when the merger was announced. At that time the merger was worth $1.7 billion in cash and stock to Omnipoint shareholders. Now, it's worth more than $5 billion at today's stock values.

Much has been said about this merger and others in the consolidating wireless market, but little about Doug Smith, 45, who founded the company in 1987. The Harvard MBA was a partner in the venture fund that initially helped capitalize Omnipoint, proving that to the biggest risk-takers go the biggest rewards.

By the way, Smith sold 175,000 of his shares Nov. 16, reaping about $14 million.

-- Terence O'Hara (oharat@washpost.com)

More From the `Mail' Man

You may not know the name, but chances are you know the voice.

Forty million times a day, Elwood Edwards tells subscribers to Dulles-based America Online Inc. that "You've Got Mail!"

On Friday AOL "extended its relationship" with Edwards, an Ohio man who markets his famous voice as a freelancer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Edwards will be even more familiar in AOL's new 5.0 version of its software, chiming in when users do a variety of tasks or need to be alerted to something. Listen for "You've Got Pictures!" in addition to the usual "Welcome" and "Goodbye."

Edwards became the voice of AOL in 1989, when his wife was working at the fledgling online company trying to find ways to make the service user-friendly. His wife asked him to record a greeting, and the rest is history.

"We look forward to our continued relationship with Elwood and witnessing this continued phenomenon and mass market appeal of the AOL online greetings," AOL Vice President Jonathan Sacks said.

Apparently, so does Edwards, whose voice is for hire to advertisers of all kinds. He even has his own Web site, http://members.aol.com/voicepro.

-- T.O.

Trading Compliments

Mobil Corp.'s relationship with its mid-Atlantic area service station owners has taken a beating lately. The Fairfax oil company's pending merger with Exxon Corp., expected to be approved tomorrow by the Federal Trade Commission, has Washington area dealers in a snit as they worry about their future. A condition of the FTC approval is that Mobil must sell its 1,210 stations in the mid-Atlantic region to a single new competitor.

Well, the lack of regard appears to be mutual. Last week Mobil announced the winners of its prestigious Premier Award, which recognizes Mobil's top-performing station owners. Only one station in the entire region, out of 47 nationally, won the award, which is based on evaluations in three areas: mystery shopper evaluations, community involvement and marketing, and business growth.

The lone mid-Atlantic winner, Sean Lane, owner of the Gatehouse Plaza Mobil station in Falls Church and a Mobil repair facility in Sterling, said that while he faces an uncertain future under a new franchiser, he has "no ill feelings toward Mobil at all. They've been very good to me and my family."

Said Lane, who has won the Premier Award two years in a row: "As long as the dealers' perspective is protected in the merger, I don't see any problem with Mobil. I'm for the merger."

-- T.O.


"I think we could get rid of all this."

-- Chris Crooks, an information technology consultant and online shopper, referring to shopping centers as he reluctantly braved the crowds at Potomac Yards shopping center in Alexandria.