After 38 years with the company and 13 as its top executive, AT&T (NYSE:T) CEO Randall Stephenson is retiring. He'll officially step down as chief executive on July 1 and will be replaced by John Stankey, CEO of AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia. Stankey, who also serves as AT&T's Chief Operating Officer, will become a board member at the beginning of June. Former Hulu chief Jason Kilar had already been selected to replace Stankey as CEO of WarnerMedia.

The line of succession wasn't a surprise, although the timing of it may have caught some shareholders off guard. Stephenson had previously indicated he would remain at the helm at least through 2020 to further guide the integration of its telecom operations with new entertainment assets, among other things.

Man laying a personnel puzzle piece in place.

Image source: Getty Images.

AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015 and then bought WarnerMedia -- which owns HBO -- in 2018. It plans to launch its new HBO Max streaming service near the end of May. The company's existing television business is still struggling, however. AT&T lost more than one million video customers during its most recent quarter, when counting both its conventional cable and over-the-top TV customer attrition. It was the seventh consecutive quarter AT&T lost more total television customers than it gained.

Stankey is also a long-tenured AT&T employee who may be able to finish what Stephenson started. Before being named COO of AT&T last year and CEO of WarnerMedia in 2017, his other roles during his 35 years with the company include leading AT&T's entertainment group and serving as Chief Strategy Officer.

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