As someone who has been following AT&T for decades, I see an interesting pattern in the change from Randall Stephenson to John Stankey as CEO of AT&T. While the future direction and success of AT&T is up to Stankey, the next hand has been dealt by Stephenson, the same way Ed Whitacre dealt the cards for Stephenson before he retired almost fifteen years ago.
Fifteen years ago, Ed Whitacre was CEO of SBC, the smallest Baby Bell out of San Antonio Texas. He became the point man in the nationwide restructuring, transformation and consolidation of the telecom industry.
Randall Stephenson to John Stankey as CEO of AT&T
Back then, in one fell swoop SBC acquired AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular, forever changing his company for the better. SBC went from the smallest to the largest Baby Bell virtually overnight. Then SBC changed its name to AT&T and changed the Cingular name to AT&T Mobility. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When Whitacre retired, he left this new mountain of complex and confusing companies and services to Randall Stephenson to sort through and transform into a leader in the changing telecommunications industry.
It took a while, but he did it. The new AT&T moved from San Antonio to Dallas Texas. AT&T Mobility, based in Atlanta where Cingular was, became a leader in wireless. They rolled out Internet and a host of other business and consumer services and AT&T continued to grow.
AT&T is leader in wireless, telecom, Internet, pay TV, news, entertainment and more
Today, AT&T is one of the two leaders in the wireless and telecom space. Verizon is the other one.
Today, AT&T is also one of the two leaders in the pay TV space. Comcast, after acquiring NBC Universal, is the other largest pay TV provider.
AT&T also recently acquired DirecTV, Time Warner, Warner Brothers, CNN and so on. They updated the brand of this new part of the company to Warner Media.
So, Stephenson not only put together and built a wireless, telecom and Internet giant, but he also expanded that vision to embrace pay TV entertainment, news, sports and so much more.
Randall Stephenson expanded AT&T into new industry segments
They recently launched AT&T TV which is a very advanced pay TV play. They are also getting ready to launch HBO Max, which is a streaming television service.
Streaming services could become a large and successful slice of the pie for them and competitive services like Disney+, Apple TV+ and Peacock.
AT&T has been an innovative leader under Stephenson over the last decade and he deserves credit for not only expanding their footprint, but also changing the industry, consolidating and integrating several different industries and so much more.
When he took the reins almost fifteen years ago at AT&T, it was just a telephone company. Over the last decade he has steered AT&T into a leader in a much larger space of wireless, telecom, Internet, pay TV, sports, news and entertainment and so much more.
Passing ball to John Stankey to continue AT&T growth run
Now, he is passing the ball to John Stankey to let AT&T continue on its new growth path. Stankey may indeed be the right man for the job. He has been with the company for decades, starting as a front-line worker and growing with the company.
AT&T was at a pivotal moment in their history when Stephenson took over from Whitacre. Today, they are also at a similar pivotal moment as they change from Stephenson to Stankey.
Will they continue to be a leader moving forward? Based on what I see so far, yes, I believe they will be. In the end, it’s all up to Stankey.
Just like last time, AT&T was in a fundamental leadership position for changes in the industry. And the same thing is happening today.
Progression of AT&T leadership from Alexander Graham Bell in 1877
Remember, Whitacre grew the company then made major acquisitions and left it to Stephenson to grow. Then Stephenson grew the company and made major acquisitions for Stankey to grow.
Now it’s up to Stankey to grow the company and ultimately make major acquisitions a decade from now to leave to the next CEO in AT&T’s historic growth track.
AT&T is a special company in the United States. It’s one of the original heavy hitters founded in 1877 by Alexander Graham Bell.
We know what AT&T is today. It is a leader in a much larger and different industry compared to a decade ago. And the entire communications industry continues to expand and change.
Congratulations to Randall Stephenson CEO of AT&T
So, congratulations to Randall Stephenson on an incredible job as CEO of AT&T. You not only changed and grew the company over the last decade, but you also set it up for its next transformational growth wave going forward. Well done.
I also wish John Stankey much success as he takes the reins of a very different, larger and expansive AT&T.
He has his work cut out for hom because not only AT&T, but the entire industry is in the early stages of a massive transformation with new competitors, new technologies and plenty of growth ahead.
I have been following AT&T and the changing industry for decades. I’ve watched many changes over time both in the company and the larger industry. And I plan to continue to follow them and comment for decades to come.
It will be very interesting to watch how the brand called AT&T and the entire industry will continue on its growth path and change path going forward.
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