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AT&T's Stankey Bids Farewell to WarnerMedia: 'I Intend to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor ...' (Read His Full Memo)

AT&T
(Image credit: AT&T)

With the $43 billion deal to spin WarnerMedia off from AT&T and merge it with Discovery closing Friday, AT&T CEO John Stankey issued some parting words for the media division his company actually owned for fewer than four full years. 

“I remain confident we have set the right path,” Stankey wrote. “Over time, the combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery will bring forth a stronger company and quicken the already strong pace of innovation and change you have established. I intend to enjoy the fruits of your labor as you create the future of WBD! But most of all, I will energetically stand on the sideline and cheer for your continued success establishing one of the most beloved media brands around the world.”

Following a torturous regulatory path, during which AT&T had to battle the whims of the Trump Administration, AT&T finally closed on an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc. in June 2018. 

It took less than three years for AT&T to discover the synergies it had imagined for the deal, most centered around advanced advertising, weren't going to come to fruition. In February 2021, AT&T announced it had reached a deal with Discovery to spin off its media division, rechristened as WarnerMedia. 

Also read: Can HBO Continue the Winning Times Amid Yet Another Brutal Transition?

Last week, most of the management team AT&T put in place to run the re-christened WarnerMedia, a group headed by former Hulu chief Jason Kilar, left the company. In their place step a new management team led by Discovery CEO David Zaslav

Here's Stankey's full note to WarnerMedia staff Friday:

To my WarnerMedia Colleagues,

As we work to finalize the combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery and launch Warner Bros. Discovery, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you. 

In July of 2018, I wrote to you:

We have a unique opportunity to truly lead in the transformation that’s taking place across media and entertainment, direct-to-consumer distribution, and technology. We are at a rare inflection point where the direction and structure of content and distribution – which are central to how almost everyone on the planet relates to society and those around them – gets shaped for future decades.

Today, we can clearly see that you have created a remarkable body of work rising to the moment I highlighted nearly four years ago. No doubt it remains a work in progress, but your accomplishments have been outstanding. The results and trajectory are clear. Three storied and proud entities have made difficult choices and decisions to collaborate and work together in ways that were not the norm four short years ago. While doing all the important work of managing businesses in transition, you brought the best that each entity had to offer to form something new — something that creatives want to be a part of and consumers have embraced the world over. You established the foundation that can take a proud legacy and storied brands forward for another decade with even broader and more engaging cultural impact than ever before.

You are to be congratulated and commended. The road wasn’t easy or clear. I would especially like to thank Jason, and the entire WarnerMedia leadership, for leading this remarkable evolution through some of the most unprecedented times we have ever seen in the company, industry and world. Those at the table truly understand the adversity and challenges that had to be overcome to get to this moment. I am delighted to observe the progress and success you have enjoyed, and I am confident you will transition to this next chapter with even more opportunity. I offer my heartfelt thanks.

I have always worked hard to live my life without regrets. I wish I could say I had none, but there are some. Shari was right that we should have had that fourth child! I close this chapter with you with two — my disappointment of not being along for the ride as you successfully complete this remarkable transition and the loss of some regular interactions in professional relationships that I have so very much enjoyed. My respect and appreciation for those I have worked closely with is enduring, and I will miss continuing to learn and problem solve with you. I especially will miss marveling at the work behind the scenes to develop remarkable stories and executions that come from your daily passion. Your friendship and support when it wasn’t required will always be remembered.

Getting to this moment was one of the more difficult decisions of my life. I am sure you aren’t surprised that it came with a fair amount of anxiety, disappointment, and concern relative to the changes it would trigger. All considered, I remain confident we have set the right path. Over time, the combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery will bring forth a stronger company and quicken the already strong pace of innovation and change you have established. I intend to enjoy the fruits of your labor as you create the future of WBD! But most of all, I will energetically stand on the sideline and cheer for your continued success establishing one of the most beloved media brands around the world.

Warm regards, thank you again, and best of luck to all of you.
John

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!