AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Out In July, To Be Succeeded By COO John Stankey

In keeping with AT&T's plans to work with Elliott Management to return to its telecom roots, the company has announced its CEO succession plan that will take place this summer.


Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and CEO of 13 years, will retire from the carrier's top spot on July 1, AT&T announced on Friday morning.

Stepping up to lead the telecom giant will be John Stankey, AT&T's current president and chief operating officer, according to the Dallas-based carrier.

The announcement of Stephenson's successor follows the carrier's plans to return to its telecom roots with the help of activist investor, Elliott Management.

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Stephenson, who is 60 years old, said in October he would stay on as CEO through at least 2020 as the carrier works with Elliott Management to add two new board members as two current members retire within the next 18 months and shed non-strategic assets.

Elliott Management in September penned an open letter to AT&T that called into question the carrier's management team, as well as its aggressive acquisition strategy over the past several years that haven't added to AT&T's core telecom business.

Stephenson responded in October, saying that AT&T promised a disciplined review of its portfolio and no major acquisitions for the next several years. The carrier also said that when Stephenson did retire, the roles of chairman and CEO of AT&T would be split.

Stephenson will continue to serve as executive chairman of AT&T's Board of Directors until January 2021 to ensure a smooth transition, the carrier said. Stankey will become a board member on June 1.

A longtime AT&T executive, Stankey joined the carrier in 1985 and has worked across many different business segments, including corporate strategy and technology, operations, and media and entertainment. He most recently served as CEO of WarnerMedia until he was promoted to president and COO of AT&T in 2019.

“I congratulate [Stankey], and 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 said in a statement. "[Stankey] has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions."

AT&T on Wednesday announced its Q1 2020 earnings, reporting that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced its earnings by 5 cents per share during the first quarter. Stephenson called the last several weeks "chaotic," but that the AT&T network is performing very well under the pressure of surging demand for connectivity.