Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

AT&T Names Executives to Lead Businesses Post-Time Warner Merger

AT&T Inc. named three new divisional chiefs to lead the company when its $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc. closes later this year.

As reported earlier by Bloomberg News, John Stankey, who ran AT&T’s DirecTV division, will supervise integration planning for the merger and lead the Time Warner businesses after the deal closes, the company said Friday in a statement. John Donovan, formerly group president for AT&T Technology, will take over the phone and TV businesses. Lori Lee, who runs global marketing, also will lead AT&T’s international businesses.

AT&T agreed to acquire the owner of HBO and CNN last October. Federal regulators are still mulling whether to green light one of the largest media mergers in recent history. The deal will unite one of Hollywood’s largest TV producers, the legendary Warner Bros., with the mobile and landline phone business that dates back to Alexander Graham Bell.

All three will report to Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. AT&T lost 1 percent to $39 Friday in New York. The stock is down 8.3 percent this year.

Barring any objections from antitrust regulators or intervention by President Donald Trump, who has publicly stated opposition to the deal and has an ongoing quarrel with Time Warner’s CNN, AT&T says it expects the deal to close by year-end.

The separation of AT&T’s new divisions will be both geographical and cultural. The plan calls for AT&T to consolidate more of its service operations, like wireless, in its Dallas headquarters, where Donovan will be located.

Donovan, who joined AT&T in the 2008 from internet-security firm VeriSign Inc., gained stature at the phone company by converting its complex, hardware-based network architecture to a system that could be controlled using software and servers. This allowed cumbersome manual functions like increasing network capacity to be more automated and instantaneous, saving time as well as equipment and labor costs.

Stankey, who has led nearly every major unit at AT&T in his three-decade career, will run the media division from his California office. The business, comprised mostly of Time Warner, will stay intact with operations in New York and Los Angeles.

While Stankey is a loyal lifer at the phone company, AT&T sees the split structure as a way to protect Time Warner’s Hollywood culture, where creativity is prized, from the more bureaucratic traditions of a Dallas office that teems with the jargon of Six Sigma process improvement tools and “best practices.”

Lee joined AT&T’s predecessor company, SBC Communications, in 1997. She was tapped to head up the Time Warner integration effort last December after previously leading the company’s U-verse landline TV and broadband business. She became senior vice president and global marketing officer in April 2015.

In its approach to Time Warner’s integration, AT&T is trying to mimic Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s management style, said one person familiar with the plan. Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and CEO, is known for giving acquired companies a great deal of autonomy rather than try to standardize them.

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