AT&T said Friday that Stephenson will remain the company’s executive chairman until January 2021 “to ensure a smooth leadership transition.” Stankey will join the board on June 1 — but he will not be the company’s next chairman. AT&T said that it will name an independent director after Stephenson steps down from that role next year.
In a statement, Stankey said he was “honored” to be appointed to the helm of AT&T, which he called “a company with a rich history and a bright future.”
Stephenson added that Stankey, who has been with AT&T for 35 years in a variety of roles, “has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions.”
“I look forward to partnering with him as the leadership team moves forward on our strategic initiatives while navigating the difficult economic and health challenges currently facing our country and the world,” Stephenson added.
“Leadership succession is one of the Board’s most important responsibilities,” Mooney said. “After an extensive evaluation, it was clear that John Stankey was the right person to lead AT&T into the future.”
The company said growth in its wireless telecom unit helped offset declines at WarnerMedia, which has been hit by a slump in advertising and the shutdown of movie theaters due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
AT&T stock has lagged the market and big rivals
Still, AT&T has had a bit of a rocky ride on Wall Street since Stephenson — who was previously COO of Baby Bell SBC Communications, which bought AT&T and took the Ma Bell name in 2005 — took over in 2007.
AT&T’s stock was down about 1% in midday trading Friday.
AT&T took on a massive amount of debt in order to go on its media shopping spree and that troubled many analysts and investors.
One activist investment firm, Elliott Management, even acquired a stake in AT&T to put pressure on the company to sell assets.
Elliott Management was also critical of WarnerMedia’s strategy, which was led by Stankey. The investment firm questioned whether the company’s new HBO Max streaming service would be a hit, adding that it felt there was “a growing sense that AT&T doesn’t have a plan” when it comes to media.
But Elliott Management praised Stankey on Friday.
“Elliott supports John Stankey as AT&T’s next CEO,” said Elliott partner Jessie Cohn in a statement sent to CNN Business, noting that the CEO search process was a “robust one.”
“We look forward to working with John as he begins his term as CEO,” Cohn added.