AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said he will retire at the end of June (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), handing leadership of one of the world's largest media and telecommunications companies to longtime deputy John Stankey. The Wall Street Journal reports: Mr. Stephenson, who turned 60 this week, has spent most of his 13 years as chairman and CEO piecing together a modern media business by scooping up DirecTV and then Time Warner, remaking the staid telephone company he inherited. He had been preparing to retire at some point in 2020 until an activist investor surfaced late last year challenging his strategy, according to people familiar with the matter.
"John will be an outstanding CEO for this company, and I couldn't be more confident or pleased in passing him the baton," Mr. Stephenson said of his successor in a video to AT&T's staff. Mr. Stankey, like the man he is succeeding, earned his stripes in the telephone business but has been a leading proponent AT&T's hard turn toward entertainment. "The entire industry is in transformation right now and that transformation extends beyond just the business model," Mr. Stankey said in a recent interview. "It's how markets and how corporations operate." Mr. Stephenson said he will remain chairman until January, when the Dallas-based company is expected to elect an independent chairman. The change was announced at AT&T's annual meeting Friday, which was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this morning, President Trump commented on the move. He tweeted: "Great News! Randall Stephenson, the CEO of heavily indebted AT&T, which owns and presides over Fake News @CNN, is leaving, or was forced out. Anyone who lets a garbage 'network' do and say the things that CNN does, should leave ASAP. Hopefully replacement will be much better!"
Ars Technica notes that AT&T's mobile business revenue in Q1 2020 was $42.8 billion, "down from $44.8 billion in last year's first quarter." It adds: "AT&T's WarnerMedia division, a result of Stephenson's Time Warner acquisition, reported a 12.2-percent year-over-year revenue decline and expects tough times ahead as the pandemic forced the cancellation of big sporting events and TV and film production." The company also just yesterday announced that it lost another 897,000 premium TV subscribers in Q1 2020. It looks like the new CEO will have his work cut out for him.
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