AT&T’s Randall Stephenson will retire as CEO and hand off to John Stankey
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is retiring as of July 1, with the architect of the phone company’s transformation into a media behemoth ceding the job to handpicked successor John Stankey. Stephenson, 60, will serve as executive chairman through January to ensure a smooth transition, AT&T said Friday. Stankey, 57, has been president and chief operating officer since October.
• Though the transition to Stankey isn’t a surprise, the timing is. AT&T is in the midst of contending with the coronavirus crisis and has yet to launch its streaming platform HBO Max, a crucial initiative set to debut May 27.
• Stephenson’s 13 years at the helm of AT&T included the $85 billion purchase of Time Warner that thrust the wireless and landline company into the heart of Hollywood. That move helped to spur an activist challenge from Elliott Management Corp., which hailed Stankey’s ascension on Friday after earlier prodding the company for a rigorous succession process.
• AT&T’s integration of what’s now WarnerMedia is still a work in progress, and Stankey will have to continue Stephenson’s efforts to meld the disparate cultures of a venerable telecom provider and a trendier entertainment stalwart.
AT&T investors took the change in stride. The stock was up less than 1 percent as of 10:45 a.m. in New York. It had lost about a quarter of its value this year through Thursday’s close.