CEOs of Fortune 500 companies usually steer clear of anything that is remotely political or culturally combustible in their public statements -- let alone in an company-wide address to thousands of employees. Not Randall Stephenson.The AT&T chairman-CEO turned heads last year with an address to employees that urged them to move beyond platitudes about tolerance to more challenging conversations about race in an effort to better understand one another as human beings. The impassioned 12-minute speech that was meant to...
With regulatory approval of AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Stephenson will add deep film, TV and news production and distribution capabilities from Warner Bros., CNN, TNT, HBO and TBS to AT&T, as well as a rich catalog of IP to fill its preexisting pipeline, which includes the U-Verse cable service and satellite provider DirecTV, acquired in July 2015 for $48.5 billion. But approval will be no easy feat for Stephenson, who has to navigate a mercurial Trump administration with a president that has been critical of the deal in the past.
But an even bigger challenge will be absorbing Time Warner and getting it competitive in a consolidated media world with tech titans like Google and Facebook breathing down Stephenson’s neck.
Stephenson began his career working in IT at Southwestern Bell (SBC) in his native Oklahoma City in 1982. A skilled and tenacious problem solver, he segued into finance and worked his way up through the company, eventually rising to COO, as it grew into an international communications giant through a series of acquisitions. In 2005, SBC purchased its former parent company AT&T and took its name. Two years later, Stephenson was named CEO.
Time Warner and DirecTV are just the latest buys in AT&T’s corporate shopping sprees. Earlier in the decade, Stephenson spearheaded AT&T’s acquisitions of Leap Wireless ($1.2B), Iusacell ($2.5B) and Nextel Mexico ($.1.9B). He has not always had a golden touch with M&As, however: AT&T’s $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telecom was scuttled by the U.S. Justice Department in 2011.
In addition to his duties at AT&T, Stephenson also serves as President of the Boy Scouts of America and sits on the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.