AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pulled in $32 million in compensation last year after AT&T's dustup with Elliott Management boosted the company's stock. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Stephenson's overall compensation increased by 10% in 2019, mainly due to the telco and media company's stock appreciation.
In October, AT&T avoided a drawn out battle with activist investor Elliott Management by agreeing to a plan that included no more major acquisitions and a full review of AT&T's portfolio. The truce sent AT&T's stock to a 52-week high on Oct. 28. Shares of Dallas, Texas-based AT&T increased by about 37% last year.
Compensation for John Stankey, who was named as president and chief operating officer of AT&T last year and is the head of AT&T's Warner Media division, went up from $16.5 million in 2018 to $22.5 million last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
John Donovan's 2019 compensation increased to $27 million last year, including close to $10 million in other pay that also included a retirement bonus. Donovan was AT&T Communications' CEO before he abruptly announced his retirement in August.
The executives' long-term stock and options awards were much larger than their annual cash salaries, according to The Wall Street Journal.
At last week's Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Stankey announced that AT&T would purchase another $4 billion in stock buybacks in the second quarter, in addition to the $4 billion the company repurchased this quarter.
The pay increases and stock buybacks probably don't sit well with some of AT&T's rank and file employees. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is currently in negotiations for 13,000 AT&T employees in California and Nevada.
During its most recent fourth quarter, AT&T cut its workforce by 4,040 jobs, according to a press release by the CWA. In addition to the job cuts in the fourth quarter, the CWA said in its press release that AT&T had cut a total 37,818 jobs since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed near the end of 2017. At the time, Stephenson was a proponent of the tax cut, and said it would lead to the creation of at least 7,000 jobs.
Along with increased automation, AT&T's move to software-defined networking (SDN), which was pioneered by Donovan, led to some jobs being eliminated over the past several years.