APRIL 27, 2007 -- Edward E. Whitacre Jr., who led the transformation of the smallest "Baby Bell" into the world's largest communications company, today announced that he will retire as chairman of the board and chief executive officer effective June 3.
The Board of Directors has chosen Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T's (search for AT&T) chief operating officer, to succeed Whitacre as chairman and CEO.
"I have had the extraordinary privilege to lead this company for 17 years, and I leave with complete confidence in the future of our great company," says Whitacre. "Randall Stephenson is an exceptional leader. He has a deep understanding of this business and a clear sense of where it should go."
Whitacre, 65, is the longest-serving CEO in the telecommunications industry, and one of the longest-serving in the Fortune 500. He has been Chairman and CEO since 1990, when the company was Southwestern Bell, then the smallest of the so-called "Baby Bells." Today, AT&T claims to be the number one wireless and broadband service provider in the U.S., and is rolling out Internet Protocol-based television service. AT&T says it also leads in serving small, medium, and large business customers, offering service to more than 100 nations.
"We have great momentum, a great foundation for growth, and an experienced management team with a track record of delivering strong results," notes Stephenson. "Our focus will not change. We're dedicated to the same vision, strategy, and focus on growing and improving the business and giving customers great products and services that have made AT&T a leader in nearly every segment of the industry," he says. "We're confident in our direction and our ability to execute for our customers and shareowners."
Born in Oklahoma City, Stephenson, 47, began his career with Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1982 in the information technology organization in Oklahoma. He then progressed through a series of leadership positions in finance, including an international assignment in Mexico City, and in 1996 was named controller for SBC Communications. Additionally, Stephenson has served as senior vice president-Performance Assurance and senior vice president-Consumer Marketing.
Before becoming COO, Stephenson was senior executive vice president and chief financial officer for SBC, during which time the company reduced its net debt from $30 billion to near zero by early 2004, positioning the company to make strategic acquisitions of AT&T Wireless, AT&T Corp., and BellSouth.
In 2005, Stephenson was appointed to the new AT&T's board of directors. Additionally, he served on the Cingular Wireless board of directors from 2001 to 2006 and as chairman in 2003 to 2004.
He is also a member of the board of directors of Emerson and serves as vice chairman of the White House's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.
AT&T's 2006 pro forma revenues of $117 billion and market capitalization of approximately $244 billion place it among the top 10 U.S. companies by both measures. In 2006, the company generated total shareholder returns of 53%, and thus far in 2007, the stock is up 10%, say AT&T representatives.
Whitacre and Stephenson both committed to a smooth, seamless and efficient transition. "We have a well-planned succession process underway, and it will be transparent for our customers, our employees, and our investors," Whitacre confirms.
In addition, James D. Ellis, AT&T's senior executive vice president and general counsel, announced his retirement. Wayne Watts, the company's senior vice president and associate general counsel, will replace Ellis upon Ellis' retirement.
The announcements were made at the company's annual stockholders meeting held today in San Antonio.