Close this search box.
Close this search box.

AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, Chief Executive’s 2016 CEO Of The Year, To Retire

Under Stephenson, Dallas-based AT&T transformed from an old-line telecom to a media and technology powerhouse. “The kind of transformational leader...Alexander Graham Bell and Theodore Vail would have celebrated."
Randall Stephenson being presented the 2016 CEO of the Year award by Boeing’s Jim McNerney.

Randall Stephenson, the CEO who led AT&T through 13 years of transformation from an old-line telephone company to a media and technology powerhouse, announced that he will retire from his role as chief executive effective July 1. He will remain chairman.

AT&T said president and chief operating Officer John Stankey will become CEO effective July 1.

“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 company press release. “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.”

Under Stephenson, Dallas-based AT&T pushed hard to expand and also diversify away from telecom through a number of high-profile deals, including their failed attempt to buy T-Mobile in 2011, the acquisitions of Leap Wireless in 2013 and DirectTV in 2014 and—most significantly—the controversial $85 billion purchase of Time Warner.

That deal took years to close thanks to a bruising battle with regulators and the Trump administration, followed by a high-profile fight with activist investor Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which had taken a $3.2 billion stake in the company. The fight with Singer was eventually settled, and CNBC reports Elliott Management has agreed to the transition plan.

In 2016, Stephenson’s peer CEOs named him Chief Executive magazine’s CEO of the Year for his leadership in remaking the company for a new, fully-digital future with an unrelenting focus on infrastructure investment, employee retraining—and game-changing M&A.

“Randall Stephenson represents not just among the finest of American industry,” said Jim McNerney, former Chairman and CEO of Boeing and 2015 Chief Executive of the Year, but the kind of transformational leader in telecom that Alexander Graham Bell and Theodore Vail would have celebrated today for mastering technology, regulation, reach and customer service.”

Maggie Wilderotter, then-executive chairman of Frontier Communications and another member of the selection committee, agreed: “He is a value-based, strategic leader who cares about his employees, customers and shareholders. Randall also gives back to the communities he serves and to our country in many ways—including his tenure as chairman of the Business Roundtable and his active service on the Boy Scouts of America’s board of directors. He is most deserving of this award!”

“Randall has done an outstanding job as CEO in transforming AT&T into a leader in communications, technology, and media and entertainment,” Matt Rose, AT&T’s independent Lead Director, said in a company press release. “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. We look forward to Randall continuing to lead the Board and working with John to ensure a smooth leadership transition.”


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.