Stankey Named AT&T Chief Operating Officer

AT&T said it has named John Stankey chief operating officer of the parent company, while retaining his role as CEO of WarnerMedia.

The newly created role comes on the heels of the retirement of AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan. Donovan is set to retire on Oct. 1, upon which time former AT&T Communications’ Technology and Operations group president Jeff McElfresh will replace him as CEO of the unit. McElfresh will report to Stankey, as will Xandr CEO Brian Lesser.

As head of AT&T Communications, McElfresh will be in charge of a telecom, wireless, broadband and pay-TV unit (which includes it DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T TV Now and AT&T TV divisions), with about 100 million customers.

In his new role Stankey will report to AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, putting him a step closer to the top spot in the company. 

“Now is the time to more tightly align our collection of world-class content, scaled consumer relationships, technical know-how and innovative advertising technology,” Stephenson said in a press release. “It’s the natural next step in bringing together the distinct and complimentary capabilities of AT&T Communications, WarnerMedia and Xandr to deliver for consumers the benefits of a modern media company. AT&T is alone in the industry in being able to bring together these three great businesses for the launch of innovative consumer offers, relevant advertising and new entertainment services like HBO Max.”

Stankey takes on the new role just as AT&T is readying the full launch of its streaming video service AT&T TV, scheduled for the fall. The service began a test launch in a few markets in August. 

“John is an outstanding executive who has led nearly every area of our business, helped shape our strategy and excelled at operations throughout his career. The Board and I look forward to John hitting the ground running in his new role as president and COO,” Stephenson said.

Like Stankey -- who joined AT&T in 1985 -- McElfresh is a phone company lifer, with nearly 25 years at AT&T in a variety of roles. In addition to AT&T Communications’ Technology and Operations group, he has served as CEO of AT&T’s Vrio and its DirecTV Latin America and SKY Brasil businesses; and President of AT&T Mexico.