WSJ: AT&T CEO's salary jumps to $32M after hedge fund dustup

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's compensation increased to $32 million last year after the company's stock surged following a truce that ended the firm's battle with Elliott Management. (Pixabay)

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.


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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.

RELATED: AT&T's Donovan sets a date for retirement

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.

RELATED: Communications Workers of America: AT&T culls over 4,000 jobs in Q4

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.