AT&T has promoted John Stankey, the CEO of WarnerMedia, to president and chief operating officer of the telecommunications giant, suggesting he is a likely successor to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. The question is when Stephenson will step down.
AT&T’s mandatory retirement age is 65 for top executives and Stephenson is only 59, which suggests there is no urgency. And as Stankey is 56, if Stephenson doesn’t retire early, Stankey may miss out entirely. If Stephenson waits another six years, AT&T’s board might focus on the next generation. But I hear Stephenson may choose to go earlier, which would give Stankey a shot.
That raises the question of who would succeed Stankey at WarnerMedia, including whether they bring someone in from outside. Cue the speculation. There are a lot of seasoned entertainment executives who are in circulation, thanks to various mergers.
Meanwhile, another interesting note about Stankey’s promotion is that Brian Lesser, the head of AT&T’s Xandr advertising unit will now report to Stankey, instead of Stephenson. The change in reporting structure raises questions about whether Lesser will stick around if he is no longer reporting to the CEO. Given the fact that WarnerMedia has its own ad sales team that is separate from the Xandr ad sales team team, it may make sense to consolidate both under Stankey.