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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Steps Down, WarnerMedia's John Stankey Named New Boss

Stephenson, who is credited with transitioning AT&T from a telecoms company into a media-focused conglomerate, will step down as CEO in July.

AT&T Inc.  (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report CEO Randall Stephenson will step down after thirteen years at the helm of the media and communications company later this summer.

During the group's annual general meeting of shareholders, which was held online amid social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, Stephenson announced his intention leave his current role in July 1, a move which was followed by the board voting current COO, and WarnerMedia CEO, John Stankey as his successor.

“I congratulate John, 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. "John has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions. He has a terrific leadership team onboard to ensure AT&T remains strong and continues to deliver for customers and shareholders for years to come.”  

AT&T shares were marked 0.5% higher in early Friday following the change in leadership announcement to change hands at $29.64 each. 

Stephenson, 61, kicked-off his career in telecoms in 1982, when he joined Southwestern Bell Telephone in Oklahoma. He worked his way into senior executive roles thereafter and was named CEO of AT&T in 2007.

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During his tenure, he guided the company through major acquisitions such as the $49 billion purchase of DirecTV in 2014 and the $108.7 billion takeover of WarnerMedia two years later.

“Randall has done an outstanding job as CEO in transforming AT&T into a leader in communications, technology, and media and entertainment," said Matt Rose, AT&T's independent lead director. "His strong leadership and strategic investments during a period of unprecedented customer demand for mobile communications and premium entertainment have positioned the company extremely well for the years ahead."  

AT&T shares, however, have only briefly traded above the level they were pegged at when Stephenson was named CEO, and the group is now struggling under a heavy $150 billion debt burden, an under-performing wireless business and a hit-and-miss entertainment group.

Stankey, 57, who is currently running three of the company's business divisions -- AT&T Communications, WarnerMedia and Xand -- joined AT&T in 1985. 

"We have a strong company, leading brands and a great employee team, which I’m privileged to lead," he said Friday. "I couldn’t be more excited about the new opportunities we have to serve our customers and communities and create value for our shareholders.”