AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announces his retirement

AT&T’s chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson is stepping down from the helm of the telecom giant, handing the reins to his No. 2 John Stankey.

Stephenson — 13-year company veteran who engineered its controversial, $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner that closed in 2018 — announced his retirement at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday.

Stankey, the company’s 57-year-old chief operating officer who recently attracted controversy as CEO of entertainment division WarnerMedia, will succeed Stephenson as CEO effective July 1.

Stephenson, 60, said he will serve as executive chairman of the company’s board of directors until January 2021, assisting Stankey in “navigating the difficult economic and health challenges currently facing our country and the world.”

“John has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions,” Stephenson said of Stankey. “He has a terrific leadership team onboard to ensure AT&T remains strong.”

Stankey was named president and chief operating officer in October. The exec, who joined AT&T in 1985, was recently thrust into the spotlight when he took the job of CEO of WarnerMedia, formerly known as Time Warner.

Since AT&T acquired Time Warner, the hard-charging Stankey has been retooling the division and ruffling some feathers, all the while developing HBO Max, the firm’s catch-all streaming service, that will launch on May 27.

Earlier this month, Stankey was replaced as CEO of WarnerMedia by Jason Kilar, the founding CEO of Hulu.

“I’m honored to be elected the next CEO of AT&T, a company with a rich history and a bright future,”  Stankey said Friday. “We have a strong company, leading brands and a great employee team.”

AT&T has recently come under pressure from Elliott Management, the hedge fund controlled by billionaire activist investor Paul Singer, which revealed a $3.2 billion stake in the company last September and pressed for changes to boost its shares.

“Elliott supports John Stankey as AT&T’s next CEO,” Elliott partner Jesse Cohn said in a statement. “We have been engaged with the company throughout the search process, which was a robust one, including a range of highly qualified outside candidates and overseen by independent directors. We look forward to working with John as he begins his term as CEO.”

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